Tag Archives: Adrienne Barbeau

Back to School (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rodney goes to college.

Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) is a successful businessman who runs a national chain of clothing stores despite having never attained a degree. Now his son Jason (Keith Gordon) is attending a university, but he feels like dropping out. Thornton though doesn’t want to let him, so he decides to attend college with him in order to inspire him to remain in school.

The film would’ve been far more interesting had Rodney been poor and struggling to better himself by finally going back to school, which is much more relatable since many adults do this all the time. Making him already wealthy saps the potential drama and reality right out of the story making it more like a game that he is playing with no real consequence. He doesn’t even take any of his studying seriously, so the idea that he is at least broadening his intellect fails here too. The side-story dealing with him being a world class diver is equally ridiculous as this out-of-shape, beer guzzling, 65-year-old man looks like someone who would barely be able to run half a block before dropping dead of a heart attack let alone achieving any sort of complex dive that no one else could do.

Casting Adrienne Barbeau as his shrewish wife was a mistake as she lacks comic ability making the barbs that she trades with him unfunny and what’s a young and beautiful woman doing married to a homely dope like Rodney anyways? Okay, so Rodney’s character here has money and that’s why she married him, but that plays completely against his stand-up persona where he portrayed himself as being this loser that got no respect. The wife should’ve been a female version of Rodney looks-wise while also a nag and thus heightening the stakes for the character to go back to school and succeed. Having him later fall in love with his beautiful English professor played by Sally Kellerman makes even less sense as the two had intellectually nothing in common.

Keith Gordon is boring as Rodney’s son and having the story go off on a tangent dealing with his romance with a pretty coed (Terry Farrell) is derivative and should’ve been avoided as the film is only amusing when Rodney is in it and dull otherwise. Gordon also looks nothing like Rodney and it’s confusing why exactly he’s not ‘fitting-in’. Casting some fat, bulging eyed guy to play a young version of Rodney would’ve been funnier while also making his social ostracism more understandable.

Burt Young’s character adds to the already weird quasi-surreal atmosphere by playing Rodney’s chauffer who despite being out-of-shape, short and middle-aged just like Rodney he somehow also possess super human strength and able to beat-up and even intimidate much younger, more muscular guys. It was like there was no motivation at all by the writers to actually tell a story that made sense and they were simply throwing in any gag that they thought up and hoping some would stick.

Robert Downey Jr. as an eccentric socialist student was the only supporting character I liked, but he is not in it enough. The script should’ve had him rooming with Rodney and examining how these two very different personalities could get along while getting rid of the son character completely. Then we might’ve had a character driven comedy that was worth watching. The film though as it gets done here is too transparent and despite being filmed on-location at the University of Wisconsin in Madison poorly reflects the actual college experience and will remind no one that has attended college of what college life is really like.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 13, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Alan Metter

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube.

Open House (1987)

open-house-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Selling homes is murder.

Real Estate agents throughout southern California are turning up dead and no one has a clue as to who’s doing it. Then late night radio talk show host Dr. David Kelley (Joseph Bottoms) starts getting calls from a man who identifies himself as being the killer. David and the police try to track the man’s calls before David’s girlfriend Lisa (Adrienne Barbeau), who just so happens to be a real estate agent herself, becomes the killer’s next victim.

By the late ‘80s slasher films were starting to become more like dark comedies with some of them even being outright parodies, which is what I initially thought this one was going to be. There are some comical touches at the beginning before it completely devolves into the tired old slasher film cliché. No scares or tension and a storyline that plods along at a snail’s pace. The identity of the killer and his backstory is lame and the film’s generic synthesized sounding music score is not a good fit for a horror movie.

Barbeau, who is the former wife of horror director John Carpenter and has done alright starring in films from this genre before, gets stuck with some really bland material here and has little to work with. Apparently she only took the part to help pay for her son’s tuition. Bottoms, whose career never blossomed like his older brother’s, was clearly on the down slide when he took this one and his presence adds nothing.

There’s one good murder involving the killer hacking off the fingers of one of his victim’s with a shot showing the fingers wiggling on the floor before the killer, for whatever reason, puts them into his pocket. The camera also stays locked on the victim’s dead bodies longer than what is usual including having it focus on a dead woman’s corpse hanging by its neck from a rope for what seems like several minutes. I might even give it a point for being the first horror film that has a killer who wears dentures and at one point he even takes them out, but overall this thing lacks imagination or inspiration. It was directed by Jag Mundhra who went on to do a lot of Bollywood films and I don’t think he had a true passion or interest in horror movies as his direction is quite mechanical and the overall production falls agonizingly flat.

open-house-2

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 35Mintues

Rated R

Director: Jag Mundhra

Studio: Intercontinental Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS