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Oh how I hated this movie... until I suddenly realized one thing
If you're the kind of moviegoer who looks for goofs, loopholes, anachronisms & inconsistencies, then you may find yourself hating this film. But I'm going to share with you one realization that turned the whole thing around for me:
The plot of the film centers around a journey to reach the "Spires of the Moon National Park", but in real life, there is no such park.
This piece of trivia may not seem significant, but for me it was the key to my enjoyment of the whole film. Suddenly it dawned on me that, just like the fictitious National Park which has no basis in fact, other "goofs" were deliberately put there to give the film a surreal, tongue-in-cheek quality. In short, this is pure fantasy where anything goes.
And trust me, the last 20 minutes requires some heavy suspension of disbelief (the same way a '49 Pontiac Eight would require a whole new suspension if you put a 455 engine in there like they did)! The last 20 minutes featured things that were so absolutely wrong, it felt like a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie ("Airplane!"), and I believe in its own subtle way, that was the intent of the filmmakers. So just bear in mind, things are supposed to get bizarre and dreamy.
Now on to the movie as a whole...
The story is refreshingly original. A wacky schoolteacher father (Ted Danson) decides to temporarily abscond with his sheltered son (Ryan Todd) in an impulsive effort to achieve "one perfect act", much to the chagrin of the agoraphobic mother (Mary Steenburgen, Dansons wife) who hasn't left the house in 7 years. What follows is a cute road movie full of interesting characters and a few preposterous action scenes (but now remember what I told you about suspension of disbelief) while past family mysteries slowly unravel themselves. Everything leads lead us to an outrageous conclusion that will either leave you sighing with delight or hurling apple pie at the TV screen.
This film is a one-of-a-kind. At first it felt like a sappy "E.T." type flick, but it soon morphs into something more along the lines of "Edward Scissorhands" only without the satire & quirkiness, then slips into something like the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, before bringing us to something reminiscent of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".
This is a very polished production with some memorable moments. The acting sometimes seems over the top, but that's the point (Danson & Steenburgen portraying polar extremes of lunacy). I didn't care for the musical soundtrack in the first half which seemed to upstage dialogue, but in the latter half the film featured well-placed nostalgic hits such as "Crimson & Clover", "Let's Get Together" (smile on your brother) and "Cheek to Cheek". The director Peter Medak, known for his prolific work on 70s-80s TV, did a nice job with some stylish visuals (watch for the car carrier under the stars and tell me how the heck he pulled that off!).
If you're prepared for a wild ride, especially if you are able to experience the movie as if it were a dream, you'll enjoy yourself. I must confess, cynical old curmudgeon that I am, I hated this movie through most of it. But I'm ready to watch it again through rose colored glasses and have fun the 2nd time around. Here's hoping you can skip the hatred part.
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