This has always been a favorite movie of mine, though I can't point to a particular reason why. It's a star-studded "sleeper" film, a quiet film, filled with hilarious comedy and family dysfunction. Frank Buckman (the fantastic Jason Robards) and Marilyn Buckman (Eileen Ryan, mother to Sean and Chris Penn) are the patriarch and matriarch of the Buckman clan. They have four adult children; Gil Buckman (Steve Martin), Helen Buckman-Lampkin (amazing Diane Wiest), Susan Buckman-Huffner (Harley Jane Kozak) and youngest Larry Buckman (Tom Hulce). Living with Frank and Marilyn is Grandma (my favorite character, played by Helen Shaw).
Gil is married to Karen (Mary Steenburgen) and they have three children, Kevin, Taylor, and Justin. Kevin has emotional problems and the school wants to put him in special ed. Justin, only three, likes to butt things with his head. Gil is an uptight businessman who thinks his father was a bad father and worries that Kevin is just like him.
Helen Buckman is divorced with two children, teenager Julie (Martha Plimpton) and young Gary (a very young Joaquin Phoenix). Julie is in love with Tod (a young Keanu Reeves) whom Helen disapproves of, and Gary is withdrawn, always walking around with a paper bag. Their father has started a new life and is totally uninvolved with the family.
Susan Buckman-Huffner is married to Nathan Huffner (the great Rick Moranis), and they have one daughter, three year old Patti. Nathan is raising Patti as a genius daughter, educating her in math, foreign language, great literature, etc. Susan once agreed with Nathan on how to raise children, but she worries that Patti isn't socialized and also wants another baby.
Larry Buckman, the youngest, is an addicted gambler. He's always got get-rich-quick schemes running, but passes himself off to his father as a real go-getter. He arrives home and to the surprise of everyone brings a young child with him, named Cool, which he just found out was his son only a few months ago. But Larry has stepped over the line and has loan sharks chasing him, threatening to kill him if he doesn't come up with their money.
From the very beginning of the movie the family dysfunction is obvious. Each family has their own problems they have to deal with. It's the realistic problems and the realistic way they are dealt with that makes the movie interesting. The acting is superb, and director Ron Howard does a perfect job. This quiet, character-driven comedy is nonetheless a roller coaster ride of emotion that never slows down. Though not action or adventure, it manages to be a riveting film that captures your attention and holds onto it. Throughout it all, the entire family manages to maintain their love for everyone, and the movie culminates in a rather sappy but appropriate ending.
Like I said, I can't really explain the reason I like this movie so much (especially me, a horror fan) but the quality of the film is undeniable. Quirky one-liners and the tragedy/comedy mixture makes a very enjoyable story. Worth a purchase, even for fans of other genres. Enjoy!
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I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
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