Is Lost in America the worst vacation on film? Don’t throw down an extreme-scenario gauntlet if you don’t want Albert Brooks to step up and take the gold. Here, he’s a fired ad exec who leaves L.A. with wife Julie Hagerty and a head full of road movie cliches and Easy Rider memories. He doesn’t get far, and the comedy of discomfort that ensues is peerless.
In 1973, PBS ran a documentary series called An American Family, about a real upper-middle-class nuclear unit, shot in the family’s home. But how could that have been “reality,” asks comic Albert Brooks in his first film, which duplicates the scenario to wicked, double-edged-sword effect. As usual, Brooks is the ogre-ish primary target, but the era’s relationship to TV and fame are also bludgeoned into pulp.