Bloggers Note: I'm going to be launching a new weekly (or semi weekly when I travel) feature on this blog called "I Can't Believe I Watched That." (New title suggestions appreciated) Each week I'll write about a film from my youth that I discovered and recently re-watched on Netflix Watch Now or Hulu (or maybe some other internet movie site that I have not yet discovered).
Bloggers Note 2: Expect spoilers
Bloggers Note 3: Many of these films will be bad.
I Can't Believe I Watched That
Directed by Peter Faiman
In which: Working class Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy) agrees to pick up spoiled Ethan Embry (the kid from Empire Records & Can't Hardly Wait who strangely costarred with Ed Bundy on the godawful Dragnet Remake), the son of his girlfriend JoBeth Williams(the mom in Poltergeist) who is divorced from Christopher McDonald (the villain Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore), from boarding school and drive him home for Thanksgiving. Hilarity ensues.
I actually had another movie in mind to launch this feature, however given the untimely death of John Hughes, I thought I'd instead begin with this minor piece from his canon (he wrote and produced). Having originally watched the film as a child due to an unhealthy obsession with Married with Children, I was honestly pleasantly surprised by how watchable it was. The film is basically a variation on the formula that worked so well in Planes, Trains & Automobiles: A dysfunctional pair stuck traveling together in time to get home for the holidays while a stuck up, bratty guy learns valuable life lissons from a working class brethren while the conditions in which they are traveling steadily deteriorate. My younger self, of course, did not pick up on this similarity at all.
Yeah, the story is a copy, the humor falls flat a fair amount, and the drama is obvious, but the movie kind of works due to how much fun O'Neill seems to be having. Who can help but smile as he frolics in a field of fireworks? Or when he finally pulls out the pellet gun he's been lording over Embry the entire movie? Or even when Rose from Lost shows up as a homeless woman offering sage wisdom... well, I don't think Hughes or director Faiman were responsible for that. And speaking of Faiman, I wish that director Faiman could have pulled off a scene as magical as the one that ends Crocodile Dundee (one of the best movie endings ever and don't let me hear you say otherwise). Instead, the shmaltz felt more in the line of Hughes' other movies from the 80's - obvious and sweet and altogether a little to easy.
That said if you ever want to see Al Bundy get squirted with moisturizer in the mouth while being robbed by underage prostitutes, this is the movie for you.
What the critics said then:
There's a John Candy-sized hole at the center of "Dutch," no doubt because the screenplay by John Hughes is reminiscent of his earlier "Uncle Buck," in which Mr. Candy starred. Both these films are about spoiled, affluent brats who are set straight by a no-nonsense father surrogate from the other side of the tracks. This guy is simple, direct and decent, with a habit of speaking his mind. Neither Mr. Candy's Uncle Buck nor Ed O'Neill's Dutch Dooley can be described without the use of the phrase "salt of the earth." - Janet Maslin, NY Times