By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Trying to be normal.
Stanley (Peter Bensley) is a lovable eccentric living on a boat for the past 10 years whose had limited contact with the outside world. His father Sir Stanley (Michael Craig) is a powerful business tycoon who wants his son to take over his company, but after Stanley tries to get the board members to eat dog food his father decides he’s wants his son committed until he can learn to be ‘normal’. Stanley doesn’t want to be put away, so he escapes from his father and moves-in with an adopted suburban family who he hopes can teach him the finer points of normalcy, only to find they are more screwed-up than he is. In the meantime his father hires his butler (Max Cullen), who at one time used to work for the secret service, to track Stanley down and bring him back.
Quirky might be an understatement for this odd comedy with an unusual sense of humor that some viewers might not appreciate, or even get. The script hinges on a lot of non-sequiturs and offbeat situations that are loosely tied together. The emphasis is on odd points-of-view that may appeal to some . For those who are game it kind of works with a fresh indie vibe though by the end it wears itself out.
The main character is likable, but not as unique as he should’ve been. He only acts bizarre at the beginning, but after that becomes pretty normal and only reacts and responds to the goofy people around. The film’s title acts like he’s ‘special’, but really he’s not. In fact Graham Kennedy and Sue Walker, who play the married couple he moves-in with, are far funnier and the movie should’ve centered entirely around them as they’re the only two that get any genuine laughs.
Stanley’s romance with Amy (Nell Campbell), a woman he meets at an employment agency, is a subplot that wasn’t needed. Amy comes-off as cold and prickly and her sister Sheryl (Lorna Lesley) seemed to be a better fit as she conveyed the same wide-eyed optimistic approach to life as Stanley while Amy was the complete opposite. His constant badgering her for a date makes him seem like a creepy stalker who won’t take ‘no’ for answer. Having her eventually cave to Stanley’s unending persistence sends the wrong type of message making it seem like harassment is a ‘good thing’ and can get the other person to eventually ‘fall-in-love’ with them if done right when in reality it almost always leads to a restraining order instead.
The film’s theme is the same as the one in the 60’s cult classic King of Hearts, where the ‘crazy’ people are actually the normal ones while those that are considered ‘normal’ are really screwed-up, but the message here is handled in a heavy-handed way and not particularly insightful. The comedy itself dies-out by the final third culminating in a tired, slapstick chase that doesn’t even include Stanley’s incredibly tiny red car, which was the only interesting element in the film and should’ve been used more for comic effect.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: March 6, 1984
Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
Director: Esben Storm
Studio: Seven Keys