Category Archives: Movies for the Whole Family

Gus (1976)

gus

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mule becomes a kicker.

The California Atoms are the worst team in football and their owner Hank Cooper (Ed Asner) is desperate to try anything in order to get them winning and fans back into the seats. His secretary Debbie (Louise ‘Liberty’ Williams) reads an article about a mule living in Yugoslavia that is able to kick soccer balls at a long distance. He decides to have the animal and its owner Andy (Gary Grimes) shipped all the way from there to the United States where they hope to have the mule try out as a field goal kicker for the team. Since the rule book never specifically states that the players must be human they figure they can get away with it and do. The team starts to win again and Gus is a fan favorite, but mobster Charles (Harold Gould) doesn’t like it and hires two bumbling crooks (Tom Bosley, Tim Conway) to kidnap the animal, so he won’t be able to show up when the team plays in the all-important Superbowl.

Although as a kid I found this film to be enjoyable as an adult it comes off as boring and lacking. The idea that simply adding in a mule to kick long field goals would be enough to turn around a team’s dismal fortunes is highly suspect. For one thing a long distance field goal kicker will kick the ball at a much lower trajectory in order to get it to travel farther and thus the potential to block those kicks is much higher and yet for some reason that never occurs with any of Gus’s kicks, but most likely would. Also, just having a good kicker who can make field goals does not improve the defense that still must stop the other team from scoring. This team was described as getting blown out of every game that they were in, so how then does the defense start magically keeping the other team’s offense in check, so that the games remained manageable and Gus’s field goals would mean something?

The viewer never gets to see Gus kick an actual field goal anyways. What we see instead is the animal kick the ball and then the camera immediately cuts to a superimposed ball floating in the air with a corny sound effect tacked on and then another cut showing it gliding through the goal posts, but never an unedited long shot, which proves most likely no animal would be able to do the feat in real-life or able to do it in a consistently accurate way.

The comical elements aren’t too great either with the two best moments coming from a chase through a hospital as well as another one inside a grocery store, but even here there are problems. For one thing the super market chase, where Bosley and Conway try to corral the animal, goes on way too long and most likely the security or police would’ve been called in long before many of the antics that do occur would’ve happened. There’s also a tacky ‘life lesson’ thread thrown in dealing with Andy learning to have self-confidence, which does nothing but make the film seem even more contrived than it already is.

This marks Grimes’s last film to date as he ended up retiring from movies at the young age of 21 even though his career started off so promisingly with his starring role in Summer of ’42. He stated that the roles he was being offered were no longer up to his standards, but most likely studios were realizing that his acting abilities were limited and it was either get into another line of work, or be relegated to B-movie hell afterwards and his transparent presence here more than proves that.

Asner is the real star and has a few funny lines. I also enjoyed football legend Dick Butkus playing the role of a jealous boyfriend. His acting isn’t exactly good, but his constant expressions of aggravation are fun. Bob Crane in a brief bit manages to be a scene stealer as an obnoxious sportscaster who won’t stop talking until he finally loses his voice.

Kids may take to this more, but even then I’m not so sure as many of them may find it dated in a film that unfortunately can’t stand up to the test of scrutiny or time.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 7, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated G

Director: Vincent McEveety

Studio: Buena Vista Distribution Company

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

A Fine Mess (1986)

fine-mess-2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: They buy a piano.

Spence (Ted Danson) works as an actor and during a break in shooting, which is being done at a local horse track, decides to take a rest in a nearby horse stall. While he is there he overhears a conversation between two men (Stuart Margolin, Richard Mulligan) in the next stall discussing how they are going to inject a horse with a drug that will cause him to run faster and therefore make him a ‘sure thing’ in the his next scheduled race. Spence decides to use this information to bet on the horse and make a killing at the track with the help of his friend Dennis (Howie Mandel), but the bad guys realize that they’ve been found out and try to nab Spence and Dennis before they are able to place the bet. Spence and Dennis try to hide from their pursuers by attending an auction where they inadvertently purchase a piano, which they must later deliver to a rich customer (Maria Conchita Alonso) who is dating a mobster (Paul Sorvino).

I was genuinely shocked at how limp and threadbare this script was and how it routinely resorted to some of the most empty-headed humor I’ve ever seen. Much of it consists of long and extended chase sequences that aren’t particularly exciting or imaginative and rely on gags that we’ve all seen a million times before.

The casting is also off. Margolin can be a great character actor, but not in this type of role and Mulligan’s dumb guy routine and facial muggings is to me the epitome of lame. Danson doesn’t seem particularly adept at physical humor and shows no real chemistry with his co-star. Sorvino, who walks around with a limp, gets a few chuckles, but believe it or not I came away liking Mandel the best and actually found him to my surprise to be the most normal person in the movie.

The intention was to make this a completely improvisational exercise, which would give the actors free rein to come up with lines and scenarios as they went while relying on the broadest of story blue prints as their foundation, but the studio wanted more of an actual script and forced director Blake Edwards, who later disowned this project, to approach the thing in a more conventional way. The result is a mish-mash of nonsense that doesn’t go anywhere and makes the viewer feel like they’ve done nothing but waste their time in watching it.

All could’ve been forgiven had they at least played up the piano moving bit, which is what I was fully expecting. The inspiration was to make this a remake of the classic Laurel and Hardy short The Music Box with a scene, like in that one, where the two stars must somehow move an upright piano up a long flight of stairs. However, instead of showing this it cuts away to the next scene where the two have somehow without any moving experience gotten the piano up the stairs with apparently no hassle, but what’s the use of introducing a potentially funny comic bit if you’re not going to take advantage of it?

I still came away somewhat impressed with the way that it managed on a very placid level to at least hold my interest. I suppose in this era where scripts with a plethora of winding twists tend to be the norm one could almost deem this a ‘refreshing’ change-of-pace in its simplicity. Those that set their entertainment bar very low may enjoy it more.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Blake Edwards

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Superdad (1973)

superdad-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: This movie is awful.

Charlie McCready (Bob Crane) is worried that his daughter Wendy (Kathleen Cody) is hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’ and dating a guy (Kurt Russell) that has no ambition. He tries spending more time with her and her friends in order to get her to appreciate his more conservative viewpoints, but finds that this doesn’t work. He then concocts a scheme to have her go to a different college than her boyfriend by pulling some strings and having someone on the board come up with a phony scholarship, but when she finds out about this she runs away in a rage and begins hanging out in a hippie commune run by a cult leader named Klutch (Joby Baker) who intends to force Wendy to marry him while Charlie tries his best to stop it.

This was Disney’s attempt at tackling the generation gap phenomenon, but the results are shallow with characters and issues that are too one-dimensional and generic to be considered relevant. There isn’t even any of that patented Disney slapstick, which could’ve at least allowed some diversion from the otherwise tedium. To top it off the music is excruciatingly sappy including an opening tune sung by Bobby Goldsboro, which could be enough to make most people want to turn it off before the film has even barely begun.

In hindsight having Crane cast as a character who preaches old-school values when in reality he was living such an excessively hedonistic lifestyle is the height of all irony. The way his character is so preoccupied with his daughter to the point that he even dreams about her is borderline creepy and makes it seem like he has some sort of latent incestuous obsession with her.

The worst thing though is his acting specifically with the way he would scream out whenever his character is in some sort of danger like when he goes water skiing. Larry Hagman always had the best yell especially as Tony Nelson in the TV-Show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ as his shrieks sounded masculine while Crane’s sound more like a high pitched scream from a female and are disconcerting instead of funny.

The Wendy character is another weak point. First she has parents who have brown eyes and in Crane’s case jet black hair as well, so if the dark gene is always the dominant one then how where they able to produce a blonde, blue-eyed offspring? Her character is also too transparent and too subservient to adult authority and not like an actual teen at all. There is one brief moment where she rebels by becoming a hippie chick, which could’ve at least added an interesting dimension to the otherwise sterile role, but unfortunately the film drops this thread just as soon as it gets introduced.

The depiction of the cult-like hippie group that is run by a controlling leader who happens to also be a painter, which ironically gets played by actor Joby Baker who later quit his acting career to become a full-time painter, is like with everything else in this movie quite generic. Clearly it was based on the Manson cult, but I got the feeling that the filmmakers were trying to send a broader message by inferring a judgmental view that all hippies ended up this way, which just proves how out of touch they were with the younger generation as they clearly didn’t understand or appreciate their lifestyle at all, which ultimately proved they were unfit to make a movie dealing with the generation gap subject in the first place.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated G

Director: Vincent McEveety

Studio: Walt Disney Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Big Top Pee-Wee (1988)

big top pee wee

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pee-Wee joins the circus.

Pee-Wee (Paul Reubens) is now living the quiet life of a farmer. He’s not too popular with the older townsfolk of the neighboring small town where he resides, but manages to find friends with the circus that blows in after a violent storm. Although he is currently engaged to Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller), who is the beautiful local schoolteacher, he soon finds himself entranced with the trapeze artist Gine (Valeria Golino), which causes a great deal of conflict especially after Winnie finds out about it.

I’m not exactly sure why Tim Burton wasn’t brought in to direct this sequel and it could have something to do with the fact that a different studio produced it, but his vision is noticeably missed. Randal Kleiser has directed some good movies of his own, but never anything is this type of genre. It was Burton’s direction and not Pee-Wee’s persona, which is rather one-dimensional and can only be amusing in small doses, that made the first film the success that it was.  Burton infused a lot of garishly colorful sets, oddball characters that complemented Pee-Wees’, and a surreal storyline that all helped to make it strangely intriguing and funny, but here we get none of that.

Instead it is a contrived and conventional storyline that goes nowhere and just isn’t original enough to be worth catching. The first half comes off as disjointed and makes little sense. Pee-Wee seems to have gone back into time as the people in the town where he lives all wear clothes and drive cars that look that they are from the 1940’s, but with no explanation for why that is. The presence of the circus is equally stupid as it seems to have quite literally ‘blown in’ with the storm and into Pee-Wee’s backyard.

The film really gets boring when it focuses on the romantic subplot, which is what takes up the film’s whole second half. One big issue is why would two really beautiful women find this man-child attractive to begin with? A much funnier scenario that would’ve kept more with the bizarreness of the character would be for him to have a romance with one of the sideshow freaks at the circus like the bearded lady, or even the Siamese twins, which could’ve been played up to an even funnier level by having both twins in-love with him and compete for his affections, or having one in-love with him while the other couldn’t stand him.

In either case the film is just not weird enough to be entertaining and it also leans towards the formulaic by having most of its humor aimed at the kiddie crown, which the first one had thankfully avoided. A definite letdown when compared to the first one.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 22, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Randal Kleiser

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

pee wee big adventure

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for his bike.

Due to the release this weekend of Pee Wee’s Big Holiday I thought it would be appropriate to go back and take a look at the ‘80s classic that started it all. Here we have Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) living with his small pet dog Speck inside a home full of colorful contraptions. His prized possession is his bicycle, which he takes great care of and carefully chains up every time he leaves it alone. However, a hateful bully named Francis (Mark Holton), who is from an affluent household and used to getting whatever he wants, decides that he wants Pee Wee’s bike for himself. When his monetary offer gets rejected he then hires a professional thief to steal it for him, which sends Pee Wee on a mad frenzy across the country to try and retrieve it.

The movie is an exercise in high camp that could’ve easily failed, but instead it succeeds mainly because it doesn’t put the eccentric main character into the real world, but instead pulls the viewer into the quirky 10-year-old mindset of the protagonist. Here we don’t deal with people who reject or mock him, but instead much like with all children he becomes the ‘king of his own domain’ where he is liked and accepted by most everyone he meets and in control of all situations while the harsher realities get ignored or overlooked completely.

The film also manages to accentuate Pee Wee’s odd personality with garishly colorful set-pieces and odd contraptions that almost become the film’s main attraction. Reubens plays the role in an engaging manner, but the character’s persona is one-dimensional and could border on getting annoying had it been the film’s sole avenue of humor, but fortunately director Tim Burton manages to give the film a complete vision by instilling a storyline and visual design that match the weirdness of its protagonist and makes the proceedings come off as fresh and inventive.

I also liked that it wasn’t geared completely towards children, but instead made to attract those of all ages with a taste for the offbeat and absurd. Going the kiddie flick route would’ve made it come off as formulaic and infantile, but instead by emphasizing the surreal it becomes intriguing and impossible to predict.

The loosely structured script, which was co-written by Reubens and actor Phil Hartman, manages to go a long way on what amounts to being pretty much just a one-joke premise, but it does eventually start to lose steam by the 60-minute mark only to recover in grand style at the end with a delightful chase through the backlot of the Warner Brothers studio. It is similar to the ending used in Blazing Saddles where the film breaks the fourth wall and becomes a movie-in-a-movie although I felt this one was funnier than the Mel Brooks version.

The film is sprinkled with a lot of cameo appearances as well with my favorite ones being Milton Berle as well as James Brolin playing Pee Wee in the Hollywood movie version and Morgan Fairchild as the Hollywoodized version of his girlfriend. I also got a kick out of Jason Hervey who is best known for playing Fred Savage’s older brother in ‘The Wonder Years’ and who does a very funny caricature of a spoiled child film star here.

The film is also known for making the ‘50s instrumental ‘Tequila’ by the Champs a very recognizable melody. In fact it is almost impossible to think of the Pee Wee character and not have that melody start to play in your head, or if you do hear the melody playing somewhere you can’t help but have the image of Pee Wee pop-up when you do. However, in the actual film the song ends up being played only briefly.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 26, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Tim Burton

Studio: Warner Brothers

Young Einstein (1988)

young einstein

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: The first rock star.

Forget all those things that you’ve read in the history books because they’re all wrong. Albert Einstein was never born in Germany instead he was the son of an apple farmer in Tasmania who grew up to not only invent the theory of relativity, but also rock ‘n’ roll, the electric guitar, bubbles in beer and even surfing. He also had a bad haircut that looked just like Carrot Top’s.

The term one-hit-wonder gets used a lot in the music business to describe a band or singer that comes out of nowhere, gets a chart topping hit and then proceeds back to obscurity. Normally it’s never used in movie jargon, but if it was this would be a perfect example. Writer/director/star/composer Yahoo Serious, whose birth name was Greg Pead until he had it legally changed in 1980, seemed to be the next creative prodigy when he concocted this thing after spending years making educational documentaries. It was a huge success in Australia, which was enough to get Warner Brothers to pick it up as they thought they had another Crocodile Dundee on their hands and spend $8 million promoting it only for it to fail dismally at the box office and in effect so did Serious’ career as he has not made a movie, or even been in one since 2000.

To some extent I was initially surprised at how well directed it was and how Serious showed an astute eye for detail. I loved how he captured the majestic Australian landscape and the music score is quite distinctive and cool. The humor is funny, but mostly when it involves a visual device that has nothing to do with the action. For instance there is a homeless man in one scene carrying a sign stating ‘The end is near’, but instead of spelling ‘near’ in the conventional way it gets spelled as ‘nigh’ to replicate his Aussie accent.

Unfortunately the comedy stays too much at an innocuous level, which is why I believe it didn’t catch on here, or become a cult hit despite its potential. Everything is geared exclusively to a preteen audience, who may love it, but for it to appeal to adults or a more discriminating viewer it needed to have a darker edge, or some attempts at satire instead of just complete, non-stop silliness.

Serious is only so-so as the lead. He certainly does have the chiseled, boyish good looks that could make the young teen girls swoon, but he had too much of a laid-back, mellow persona and seemingly unable to convey any other type of emotion. His radical, punk-like hairstyle starts to become a distraction to the point where you find yourself looking at it even when you don’t want to.

Originally the script was called ‘The Great Galute’ and was a story about some non-descript fella who invented the electric guitar and the Einstein angle was only added in after Serious took a boat ride down the Amazon and noticed a kid wearing an Albert Einstein T-shirt. In a lot ways the film would’ve been better had it stayed with its initial concept as it’s a bit disrespectful to the actual person and it’s never even remotely funny that this guy with a perpetual surfer dude mentality could’ve really be a super genius.

The ridiculous plot proceeds to get dumber as it goes along until it becomes just downright embarrassing by the end. The romantic side-story and the film’s villain (John Howard) are pointless, boring additions that add nothing and should’ve been scrapped. The film would’ve been more successful had it done away with a conventional narrative completely and instead taken the Jacques Tati approach where all emphasis was placed on visual non-sequiturs as this was the only time that I found the film to be even slightly engaging.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 15, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Yahoo Serious

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

It’s Only Money (1962)

 

its only money

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: TV repairman gets rich.

Lester March (Jerry Lewis) is a dimwitted TV repairman who has a penchant for reading detective magazines and desires to become a private eye. When Pete Flint (Jesse White) who is an actual detective comes to his shop one day with a broken TV set Lester uses the opportunity to ‘audition’ himself as Pete’s assistant on his next case. Pete decides to try him out by putting him on a case involving a rich family whose heir to their fortune is missing yet when Lester starts to investigate he realizes it may be himself that they are looking for.

The script by John Fenton Murray comes off like it was written in one day and could’ve possibly been done by a 10-year-old in a matter of an hour. The plot is lame and flimsy, the humor excessively silly and the movie offers nothing new or creative. The running gag involving the Jack Weston character and his many attempts at trying to kill Lester is nothing more than a live action, subpar version of the Wiley E. Coyote/Road Runner formula.

How much one enjoys this film relies heavily on how much they can tolerate Lewis. To some extent he is mercifully more restrained here and not as obnoxious as usual, but there are still several scenes that get unnecessarily extended just so he can play up a gag that has nothing to do with the plot and isn’t funny. The biggest issue I have with the character is that he’s too unrealistically and painfully stupid. It’s one thing to be a slightly dimwitted schmuck, but this guy speaks and acts like he has a severe mental defect and needs clinical help.

Mae Questel, who was best known as the voice of cartoon character Betty Boop, is far funnier and without trying half as hard. The scene where she gets into a tight jumpsuit despite being quite overweight and elderly and then tries to do some exercises will certainly elicit a few genuine chuckles from just about anybody and the only real funny part in the movie. Weston isn’t too bad as the nemesis especially the scene involving his attempts to run Lester over with a car.

The climactic sequence involves Lester being chased around by robotic lawn mowers, which offers a slight diversion, but the rest of the film is forgettable and subpar even for Jerry Lewis standards.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 21, 1962

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Frank Tashlin

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, You Tube

Way…Way Out (1966)

way way out

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Living on the moon.

The year is 1989 and both the Russians and Americans have set-up bases on the moon. Each base has 2-people living in them. For the Russians things go smoothly mainly because they have a man and a woman (Dick Shawn, Anita Ekberg) cohabitating while the Americans have two men (Dennis Weaver, Howard Morris) who quickly go crazy because there are no women around for sex. NASA decides to replace the two men with a man and woman like the Russians have, but insist that unlike the Russians the American couple must be married. Pete (Jerry Lewis) who is a long time employee of the space agency is chosen and his female counterpart is fellow astronaut Eileen (Connie Stevens). The two had never met and are forced to accelerate their courtship and eventual marriage in a matter of 3 days before getting rocketed up into orbit.

To some degree this is an interesting idea and the first 15 minutes or so allows for some comic intrigue, but the filmmakers blow it by backing off of their novel approach and turning the whole thing into just another contrived romance. Stevens may be attractive, but her acting is limited and her presence adds no other added element to the proceedings besides being ‘eye candy’. The film would’ve been funnier had Pete been forced to go up with agency’s second choice, which was Esther (Bobo Lewis) who was a more aggressive, less attractive woman who could’ve added humorous conflicts. The spats between Pete and Eileen is banal and the second half devolves into one long drunken party between the American and Russian couple that isn’t funny and more like filler  put in when the writers ran out of ideas from their original concept.

From a sci-fi angle it is implausible. The rocket ship takes only a few minutes to get from earth to the moon and when they get there the lack of gravity is never addressed and they are able to walk around normally except for the few times when they get into fights, which sends one person flying off into the air when punched by the other. The earth that is shown in the sky has no clouds even though clouds can always be seen from just about every satellite shot taken of earth from space. The film also ruins the most intriguing element, which is seeing how they might’ve predicted things would look like in the ‘80’s from a ‘60’s perspective by having a narrator state right away that ‘little has changed’ in the past 23 years and therefore making no attempt to show anything from a futuristic viewpoint.

Lewis is amazingly restrained and doesn’t end up ruining things with his overacting, which instead gets done by Shawn. Weaver has a few good moments as the stressed out astronaut slowly going nutty as well as Brian Keith as a gruff American general, but Robert Morley is the funniest as the over-worked and over-burdened head of the space program.

Since one must set the bar very low from the beginning with any Lewis comedy this manages to be tolerable despite being more benign than it needed to be.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Gordon Douglas

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video

The Princess Bride (1987)

princess bride 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Grandson likes bedtime story.

Based on the 1973 William Goldman novel, who also wrote the screenplay, a grandfather (Peter Falk) arrives to read to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) a fairytale. Initially the grandson is more interested in playing video games, but soon finds himself enraptured with the story despite his initial reluctance. The tale involves a country girl named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who falls in love with a farmhand named Westley (Cary Elwes). When Buttercup mistakenly thinks that Westley has been killed by some pirates she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) only to end up getting kidnapped before her wedding and saved by Westley who was never dead to begin with. The two then must fight off the evil Prince who still insists on marry Buttercup and doing away with Westley.

The film, which was directed by Rob Reiner and produced by his former ‘All in the Family’ creator Norman Lear, is engaging from beginning to end and filled with endlessly funny dialogue and exciting adventures that remain pleasantly amusing throughout. My favorite moment is seeing a completely unrecognizable Billy Crystal hamming it up as an old man magician who tries to revive Westley while sounding like a comedian from vaudeville.

The special effects are impressive especially the shot showing Buttercup’s three kidnappers climbing a rope up a steep mountain while being followed close behind by Westley. To me though the best part is when Westley gets attacked by what appears to be a giant rodent that, with the exception of his fake looking fur, looks amazingly real and not like a stuntman in a body suit or a computerized image.

The performers are well cast with my favorite being former wrestler Andre the Giant who steals it despite having no acting experience and at times difficulty enunciating his words. The only negative is Christopher Guest as a six fingered man who supposedly attacked the Mandy Patinkin character when he was a child, but now that Patinkin has grown he faces Guest again even though Guest looks to be practically his same age and not someone who should be significantly older.

The story is basic and lacks the grandiose and dark quality that many of the classic Grimm fairytales possess. The banter between the grandson and Grandfather is fun and I wished it had cut back-and-forth between the two and the story more often than it does. The context is simple and straight forward and its ‘message’ of teaching kids to learn to enjoy reading is a bit too obvious, but overall as non-think escapism it scores a bullseye and through the years has managed to acquire a strong cult following.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 25, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Rob Reiner

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

 

Goin’ Coconuts (1978)

goin coconuts

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Donny and Marie movie.

Donny and Marie Osmond, the brother and sister act from Utah who had a short-lived variety show on ABC during the late ‘70s, take their act to the big screen in this thinly plotted comedy aimed solely at the kiddies. The story has them flying to Hawaii for a performance, but not before a mysterious Priest (Jack Collins) hands them a necklace. Marie decides to wear it not knowing that it is stolen and wanted by various and competing criminals. Will the non-stop barrage of attempts that the thieves make to get the necklace back end up driving the pair nuts? Will this break up their act or better yet will any of this cause you not to sleep at night?

I think the funniest thing about this flick is that it took two writers to come up with a concept that a 6-year-old could’ve thought up in less than a minute. The script is clearly threadbare material and the forced hijinks and ‘zany’ villains aren’t any better. I realize this is aimed at the younger crowd, so one must measure it in a different way, but even so it doesn’t have enough action or special effects to hold their attention and kids of today will probably have no idea who Donny and Marie are or even care.

I realize the Osmonds have been plagued their whole careers with their ‘goody-goody’ image that at one put even gets made fun of by the Kenneth Mars character, but with that said they’re still quite likable and they really can sing rather well. I liked some of their brother-sister banter and the gender bending scene of having Marie driving a motorcycle. I was also impressed with how mature these two were especially when you consider that Donny was only 20 at the time of filming and Marie was 19.

The recognizable character actors who make up the supporting cast helps a little. This marks the final film appearance for both Ted Cassidy and Khigh Dheigh. In Cassidy’s case I was genuinely surprised to find that he passed away less than 3 months after this film’s release as he appeared quite young and energetic.

Mars does another of his over-the-top caricatures that closely resembles the one he did in The Producers, which should make it old and tiring, but he still manages to somehow keep it fresh and lively. Herb Edelman is fun as the high-strung manager and famous bad guy Marc Lawrence has an amusing bit trying to chase down the pair while driving a car with an old lady passenger.

Osmond fans may rate this slightly better, but there’s very little to recommend and best viewed as a curio on a slow night.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 6, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Howard Morris

Studio: Osmond Entertainment

Available: VHS, DVD