(director: Ron Howard; screenwriters: story by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel & Ron Howard/Lowell Ganz/Babaloo Mandel; cinematographer: Donald McAlpine; editors: Mike Hill/Daniel Hanley; music: Randy Newman; cast: Steve Martin (Gil Buckman), Dianne Wiest (Helen), Mary Steeenburgen (Karen Buckman), Dennis Dugan (David, the boss), Jasen Fisher(Kevin), Keanu Reeves (Tod), Rick Moranis (Nathan), Harley Jane Kozak (Susan), Helen Shaw (Grandma), Erika Rafule (Amy), Jason Robards (Frank Buckman), Eileen Ryan (Marilyn), Martha Plimpton (Julie), Tom Hulce (Larry Buckman), Ivyann Schwan (Patty), Leaf Phoenix(Garry), Zachary Lavoy (Justin), Alex Burrall (Cool); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Brian Grazer; MCA Universal Home Video; 1989)
“A feel-good sitcom about three generations of middle-class California suburban dwelling parents trying to deal with their vexing children as they experience growing pains.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A feel-good sitcom about three generations of middle-class California suburban dwelling parents trying to deal with their vexing children as they experience growing pains. Director Ron Howard (“Rush”/”The Da Vinci Code“) keeps it somewhat insightful, somewhat silly and somewhat forced, until it goes off the rails and the mosaic extended family scene becomes chaotic.
It’s based on a story Howard wrote with Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, and features a poignant scripy by Ganz and Mandel.. The main focus is on good father businessman Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) and his sweet ideal wife Karen (Mary Steeenburgen), and the difficulties that arise raising their three young children. Gil is determined to do a better job than his neglectful father of four, Frank (Jason Robards). Frank showed more love to his useless younger son Larry (Tom Hulce) that left Gil feeling emotionally deprived. Therefore when the Public School principal earmarks Gil’s oldest son Kevin (Jasen Fisher) for a Special Ed program and counseling from the school psychologist because he appears maladjusted, dad fights back against the educators and devotes extra-time to doting on his troubled son. Dad fears that Kevin’s faults reflect on him as a father. Gil’s unhappy sister Helen (Dianne Wiest) is divorced from a loveless marriage, and has her hands full raising her two teen-age children. The oldest, 16-year-old Julie (Martha Plimpton), is secretly sleeping with her drag-racer boyfriend Tod (Keanu Reeves) in her bedroom. While the sullen 13-year-old son, Garry (Leaf Phoenix), treats her with contempt and only cares about skateboarding and his pornographic videotapes. Gil’s other sister, Susan (Harley Kozak), is a schoolteacher whose obnoxious domineering husband, Nathan (Rick Moranis), has become so obsessed with raising a perfect child that he forces his precocious 3-year-old daughter (Ivyann Schwan) to read Kafka and not play for fun with the playground kids. The friendly grandma (Helen Shaw) gets relocated from her son’s house to live with Gil, when unexpectedly Frank’s wayward young adult son Larry returns home from Las Vegas with an illegitimate black son named Cool (Alex Burrall) and is fearful that bookies want to kill him if he doesn’t pay his gambling debts.
It’s a busy picture, that gets enough right to be both entertaining and observant despite all its miscues.
REVIEWED ON 6/26/2017 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/