I haven’t ever felt badly after viewing a John Hughes movie before. From Ferris Bueller to Sixteen Candles to Home Alone, I was never bored by any of his pics. Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Hughes only true “adult” movie, is a triumph of 1980s screenwriting and acting. So it’s sad to watch She‘s Having A Baby, another so-called “grown up“ pic. Even with a few good scenes, it’s easily the most boring movie with Hughes’s name attached to it. And a weak Hughes flick to me is strangely disheartening.
Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern star as Jake and Kristy Briggs, a couple of recent college graduates with minimal career aspirations and undying love for one another. For the first few minutes, Kevin Bacon gives an extremely boring voiceover chronicling his life from meeting his fiance until college graduation.
About two hours into Ryan’s Daughter, I was only thinking about an episode of “Seinfeld” I’d watched a few days earlier. That’s right. My mind wouldn’t stop mulling over the “English Patient” episode where Elaine finally slouches over next to J. Peterman in the middle of a screening of the film and screams “It’s too long!”
That how I feel about David Lean’s movie, and my stray thoughts present two problems. First, the film is a simple love story stretched into an unbearable running length. And secondly, I was thinking about an episode of “Seinfeld” for about the last hour of the picture when I should’ve been wrapped up in the action. Not a strong vote of confidence.
A Shock to the System, a pic about an under-appreciated ad man who sets out to exterminate everyone who serves as a roadblock on his path to success, is a fun watch, but little else. The comedy is generally to my taste–pitch-black. Michael Caine is, honestly, in one of his best five roles of all time. Swoosie Kurtz, as his domineering wife, and Elizabeth McGovern, as a beauty at the ad agency where he works, are both fine. Peter Reigert, as the youn’in whose destined to get the promotion Caine’s character deserves and yearns for, is quite funny. So what’s missing?
After a second viewing, I’m certain that the script just doesn’t hold together. There are brilliant scenes of dark comedy followed by pedestrian sequences of cat-and-mouse police games. The ending, far too predictable, isn’t nearly as over-the-top as it should be.
I do know one thing, though: nothing that goes wrong is Michael Caine’s fault.
When you saw Stand By Me (1985) for the first time, who was the character you really connected with? If you asked most people who’d seen the movie, the answer would be Gordy (Wil Wheaton) or Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), the two smartest kids in Rob Reiner’s masterpiece. Disregarding Wheaton for the moment, good as he was, you could easily see that River Phoenix was the remarkably talented actor in the movie, even at the ripe age of 12. He was quiet and acted self-assured. He was also insecure and scared–a terrified teen from a terrible background–but pushed on in scene after scene with false confidence until he finally cracked. Life must’ve been exhausting for Chris Chambers. We know for sure that it was for the actor River Phoenix, who died of a heroin overdose at age 23.
Running On Empty, a very good movie helmed by a very good director (Sidney Lumet), showcases River Phoenix’s talents so well that, watching it and also knowing how his life fizzled, leaves crying as the only possible outcome.