Monday, April 25, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #51: Yours, Mine, and Ours

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more information about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far. 

Half a lifetime ago, I reviewed a quaint little family comedy for this project called Cheaper by the Dozen 2. The premise was fairly simple: funnyman Steve Martin has a lot of kids, isn't that hilarious/touching? I came to realize pretty early on in the film that only the elder third of Martin's brood were going to be given enough attention and screentime to have actual characters; the rest would just largely be defined by superficial qualities or interests (Has glasses! Likes sports! Plays bassoon!).

Hell, at least that Bataan Death March of a film had only twelve kids. Today's has eighteen goddamn kids. What the hell caused this movie to be made? Did nobody realize that within the past two years there was already a veritable franchise of too-many-kids movies? Was there a demand for Dennis Quaid to be repeatedly assaulted in the privates without end (answer: of course there was)?

What's really bizarre about this whole phenomenon is that both Yours, Mine, and Ours (Oxford comma mine) and Cheaper by the Dozen were remakes. That makes for a grand total of sixty superfluous film children out there.

Dennis Quaid plays Frank Beardsley, a rear admiral in the United States Coast Guard. Recently having been appointed head of the Coast Guard Academy, Frank moves his family back to his hometown of New London, Connecticut. Shortly after moving home, Frank reunites with his high school sweetheart Helen North (twelve-year-old Boivin's crush Rene Russo) , a recently widowed free spirit herself. That old loving feeling reignites between them and soon enough they're married. Great. Did I mention Frank has eight kids and Helen has ten? Because they do. And yes, Brady Bunch jokes are made, because we live in a hip ├╝ber-referential pop culture age and nothing is original anymore.

Much as with its sister film Cheaper by the Dozen, I was astounded at how much I found myself liking the romance plot of the film. Say what you will, Quaid and Russo give pretty good performances when they're allowed to be real adults with feelings and histories instead of targets for child abuse (that's abuse at the hands of children, not abuse of children). I would have probably enjoyed a movie about two old flames getting back together after their spouses die, rekindling their youthful romance after nearly thirty years apart. You know what that movie could use? KIDS. Oodles and oodles of kids!

The kids, the fucking kids in this movie. Literally just like in Cheaper by the Dozen every kid is defined by exactly one interest or trait (or as is the case with Russo's near-army of foster children, ethnicity), and they get less and less recognizable as they get younger and younger. I honestly gave up trying to remember names (okay, I was never really trying that hard) after the first four or so kids of each family because who gives a shit.

This movie was co-produced by Nickelodeon so pretty much all the tweenage kids are stars of some Nick show. At least four of them I recognized from my admittedly creepy knowledge of kid's television (honestly, iCarly is a pretty good show if you just convince yourself to stop feeling gross about watching it). And do Rip Torn and David Koechner count as TeenNick stars? Because they're in this (not as children, mind you) and I think the two of them should have a Keenan and Kel-esque sitcom. It would be great. Koechner can be the straight man who be schemin' and Torn can be the crazy, orange soda-loving best friend. They can also both play teenagers. "Aww, here it goes!"

Also, on the subject of Nickelodeon, Dennis Quaid is actually capital "s" Slimed at least twice in this movie. It's good to see that some traditions never change.

A strange, somewhat off-putting bit occurs early in the film where Coast Guard captain Koechner refers to Quaid as "'Mad Dog' Beardsley". I was a bit curious as to how an officer in the Coast Guard, admittedly the tamest and least-exciting of the armed forces, can get a name like "Mad Dog".

The way I imagine it was this: in 1994 a boat of Haitian refugees was intercepted by a Coast Guard cutter in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, none of the sailors onboard spoke a word of French or Haitian Creole and there was a difficult language barrier between the two parties. Things escalated quickly, and in the confusion of the Coast Guard attempting to board the Haitian vessel, a brief spat of violence broke out (the jury is still out on who threw the first punch). Instead of calming the tensions, executive officer Lieutenant Commander Frank Beardsley opened fire into the Haitian boat. All aboard were killed. The incident was quickly covered up by the U.S. government, but the man known from then on as "Mad Dog" would go on to become a notorious figure within the Coast Guard.

This would surely explain Quaid's behavior with his children. He runs his family like a military unit, his children address him as "Admiral" and "Sir", almost never "Dad". He keeps their lives tightly regimented and moves them around as his posting changes. Now, I have the utmost respect for military families, my dad was an Army brat and spent much of his childhood on bases in Germany. But I'm pretty sure my grandpa didn't make him call him "Sarge" and he certainly knew better than to have three times as many children as the national average with his sometimes difficult career and lifestyle. Does the Coast Guard have the same policy on birth control as the Catholic Church?

But honestly, Quaid is some sort of shell-shocked nutjob in this one. He has to be. The man wears his dress uniform out on a blind date. I mean, it's not as creepy as Steve Martin's obvious Old Testament reproductive fundamentalism in the Cheaper by the Dozen movies, but whatever.

All in all, if you'd like to see a Quaid get utterly brutalized by a gaggle of little hellions, boy have I got a movie for you!

Yours, Mine, and Ours is ranked #63 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.