"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Getting Even With Dad

June 17, 1994 was such a big day that in 2010 Brett Morgen released an ESPN 30 For 30 documentary called JUNE 17TH, 1994. It covered Arnold Palmer playing his final round at the U.S. Open, the commencement of the first FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States, a ticker tape parade for the New York Rangers after winning the Stanley Cup, Game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals, Ken Griffey Jr. tying a Babe Ruth home run record, oh yeah and O.J. Simpson’s infamous slow police chase in the Ford Bronco. One important event of the day that it did not cover was the release of Mike Nichols’ WOLF starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. And I will not be covering it either, despite its story of an older generation getting all macho to compete with a younger one stealing their jobs and women, because I already wrote about it in my Summer Flings series.

There is however one topic I will be covering that was far too provocative and/or non-sports-related to include in the documentary, and that’s the movie GETTING EVEN WITH DAD starring Ted Danson as Dad and Macaulay Culkin as the party getting even.

My level of completism in this review series might knock the ‘90s nostalgia right out of me. GETTING EVEN WITH DAD is another not terrible but not particularly beneficial to experience middle of the road studio comedy of its era. I am neither happy or sad to have watched it. Life goes on.

It’s directed by Howard Deutch (PRETTY IN PINK, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL) from a spec script by former advertising copywriters Tom S. Parker & Jim Jennewein (STAY TUNED, unused first draft of SUPER MARIO BROS.). After MGM won it in a heated bidding war a source described it to Variety as “a highly commercial and entertaining script, well-structured, well-written and full of both hilariously funny and endearing moments.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but that’s clearly the intention.

It starts as a crime movie. Generously pony-tailed ex-con Ray Gleason (Ted Danson, BODY HEAT) is selling his partners Bobby (Saul Rubinek, UNFORGIVEN, DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH) and Carl (Gailard Sartain, CLEAN SLATE) on heisting a collection of rare coins worth $2 million. He seems to have some genuine passion for his day job decorating wedding cakes (something he took classes for in Folsom), but he’d rather have money, so he’s returning to the ol’ crime.

Everybody’s in. But then his sister Kitty (Kathleen Wilhoite, ROAD HOUSE, BRENDA STARR) shows up out of the blue, says she’s going on her honeymoon so he has to watch after his estranged 11-year old son Timmy (Macaulay Culkin, JACOB’S LADDER). We later learn that the mom told Ray not to contact the kid after he went to prison, but the mom has since died, Timmy is living with Kitty, still nothing from Dad. I respect Timmy’s passive aggressive move of bringing him the saddest photo ever as a gift.

So yeah, it’s one of those ones where a deadbeat fuck-up has his heart warmed into changing his ways. At first he tries to get rid of the kid before the heist. He settles for leaving him, uh, home alone in his pretty cool San Francisco apartment. Gives him twenty bucks. Unfortunately Mr. Master Criminal here made the unfathomably stupid choice of drawing a giant red circle around the newspaper article where he learned about the valuable coin collection (!!!)

and leaving it laying around, so when Timmy hears about the heist on the news he puts two and two together, figures out where they stashed the coins, hides them, and blackmails his dad into having a fun weekend with him, taking him to baseball games and mini-golf and everything.

Yeah, that’s definitely a comedy premise when I explain it, but the movie is more about the treacly shit than any laughs. The score by Miles Goodman (TEEN WOLF, PROBLEM CHILD, WHAT ABOUT BOB?) definitely spends alot of time telling us how sweet this all is, though he also gets the electric guitar going sometimes to tell us it’s a serious cop movie.

On the case of the missing coin collection is mousy sweetheart detective Theresa Walsh (Glenne Headly, DICK TRACY). She gets no respect from her macho partner played by Sam McMurray (STONE COLD, CLASS ACT) or her lieutenant played by Hector Elizondo (last seen playing a cop in BEVERLY HILLS COP III) but she quickly zeros in on Ray and follows him around trying to catch him with the loot. After being there when Timmy almost gets hit by a bus she comes to their attention and next thing you know she’s dating Ray, unsure how much is investigating and how much is sincere.

So the conflicts include whether Ray can turn into an actual father, whether Theresa will really fall for him and/or be forgiven for being a cop, and whether his partners will betray him. Rubinek is good as always, acting kind of coked out like he did in TRUE ROMANCE, but sporting a pompadour and dangly earring. He wears a tank top under an unbuttoned shirt under a leather jacket with the sleeves pulled up but he’s still Saul Rubinek, so he’s perfect as a guy wanting to be perceived as tough but not necessarily pulling it off. When he pulls a gun on Ray but his hand is shaky there’s a tiny bit of that Elmore Leonard quality – dangerous because he’s not a master criminal.

These guys should’ve been the Reservoir Dogs

Danson’s tough guy accent is a little more iffy, I think we’re supposed to take him at face value and as a rule it’s kind of hard to accept iconic sitcom dudes changing themselves like that, especially when it involves a ponytail. But it’s fine, it’ll do. The man was a pretty big movie star for a while and I think it comes from an inherent sweetness behind the tall handsome guy swagger. So this is still in his lane.

Culkin is as good as always in the movie, and maybe a little more tolerable than in others because it’s more about him being melancholy than precocious (except in the part where he puts on sunglasses and lip syncs “Do You Love Me”). Of course, they advertised it with him smiling and giving a thumbs up and with the tagline “Mack is Back.” He has longer hair that fits the character’s disaffectedness and his own budding teenagerdom – reportedly they wanted him to cut it but he didn’t want to and his real life asshole dad got them to back down.

GETTING EVEN WITH DAD got dismal reviews and barely passed its budget at the worldwide box office (though I’m sure it made a profit on video). Parker & Jennewein’s run as produced screenwriters peaked that year with the success of THE FLINTSTONES and a story credit on MAJOR LEAGUE II. At least one of them teaches screenwriting classes now and together they wrote a series of Norse-mythology-inspired fantasy novels called RuneWarriors. Deutch continued directing studio comedies, most of them sequels (GRUMPIER OLD MEN, THE ODD COUPLE II, THE WHOLE TEN YARDS) before moving to TV (Big Love, American Horror Story, True Blood, Young Sheldon). He’s married to Lea Thompson and their daughters Madelyn and Zoey Deutch are both actors.

1994 was Culkin’s last year of movies before getting tired of acting, taking his parents to court over control of his trust fund and considering himself retired for almost a decade. He had THE PAGEMASTER and RI¢HIE RI¢H (from the same writers) and then was out of the business until PARTY MONSTER in 2003. Since he was born in 1980 he’s one of the youngest Gen-Xers, so even if the soundtrack is all oldies (“Money [That’s What I Want],” “Start Me Up,” Professor Longhair) and the movie isn’t very good, it’s still our movie. Our time. Look out, dad – we’re getting even.

* * *
Tie-ins: Scholastic released a novelization by Jordan Horowitz. “Based on the hilarious new movie from MGM,” it includes eight pages of color photos from the movie. Isn’t that cool? They’re in color!

Horowitz seems to have specialized in adapting family movies: he did novelizations for Free Willy 1 and 2, D2: The Might Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, Heavyweights, Dennis the Menace, The Big Green, and Culkin’s own Home Alone 2 and Richie Rich. Oh, and he also did the one for 3 NINJAS KICK BACK! Must’ve been busy that year.

Summer of ’94 connections: They visit the amusement park Great America, which was heavily featured as parts of Wonder World in BEVERLY HILLS COP III.

Tom S. Parker & Jim Jennewein are two of the writers credited on THE FLINTSTONES.

Gailard Sartain, who plays Carl, was in the first three ERNEST movies – I wonder if he had to miss ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL because he was filming this?

Note: I think it’s funny that LITTLE BUDDHA and EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES aren’t on blu-ray but this is (from MVD’s Marquee Collection).

This entry was posted on Monday, June 17th, 2024 at 7:08 am and is filed under Reviews, Comedy/Laffs, Crime, Family. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

15 Responses to “Getting Even With Dad”

  1. The marketing angle for this was “take your dad to go see it for Father’s Day!” and, being a broke 14 year old, is exactly what I did. Neither of us were happy with the gift.

  2. I realize that there are (and I guess still are) just god awful wigs out there but Danson seems to be more cursed than most with bad wigs. His modern wigs/transplant is better but the Cheers and movie era wigs were obvious and bad. I don’t know what it is about bald(ing) men, but the desire to have a ponytail must be strong because you see if with Nic Cage as well. I’ve never seen this movie but just from the stills it looks like a dead animal sitting on his dome.

  3. I’m having a hard time picturing an adolescent boy who’d want his crook father to take him to baseball games instead of showing him how to steal cars and such. Maybe my picture of adolescent boys is based too much on Bart Simpson.

  4. This is one of those movies I assumed was a big hit at the time, I guess because I was pretty squarely in the target audience and thus was exposed to the full circle of marketing for it, which could go on for about 4-5 years in those days (cinema, rental VHS, purchasable VHS, pay per view, satellite/cable and finally terrestrial premier). I did see it in its penultimate phase, but all I can remember is the montage set to Money. Does Culkin appear *on* the money at one point? No, that’s probably RICHIE RICH isn’t it? Anyway, I see it’s on Freevee in the UK. Sure, why not?

  5. Now I’m remembering why I didn’t see a comedy in the theater for pretty much the entire first half of the nineties. It wasn’t until BILLY MADISON in 95 that comedies were allowed to be funny. Up until then, all comedies were just family movies about unconvincingly cynical honkeys learning to love again via the medium of adorable children and/or Saint Bernards. You could only tell they were even supposed to be funny because they’d play “I Feel Good” at one point. Apparently this one utilizes the common “Do You Love Me” variant. A bunch of semi-retired soul artists getting royalty checks was about the only thing this era of comedy had going for it.

  6. I always thought this was a John Hughes flick and therefore ended with some bumbling gangsters getting hit in the head with heavy objects a lot. Oh well.

  7. Vern, I appreciate your completism when it comes to this middle of the road stuff, even if there isn’t a ton to say about them. I’m sort of nostalgic for middlebrow fare from the ’80s and ’90s, partially because I grew up on it, and partially because they just don’t make movies like this anymore. You’d be lucky to find something like this go direct to streaming, or made even more bland and treacly for Hallmark, if it gets made at all. It’s nobody’s favorite movie, but it had a purpose to serve and an opportunity to exist. Of course, I also watched SPEED this weekend, and they don’t make movies like that anymore, either.

    Danson has had an interesting career arc, in that he made his bones playing Sam Malone, who was a kind of dumb tough low-brow manly cad, and did gigs with a similar image for a while, even through Becker. This was the Danson afraid of losing his hair. But I think I prefer latter Danson, where he started playing more high-class, foppish, erudite but silly characters that seem more like his real self, like with Bored to Death, The Good Place, etc. The white hair (plugs?) and glasses years.

  8. But did it really count as getting “even”…?

  9. I was originally gonna post about Mr Majestyks robin hood men in tights slander wouldn’t stand, but in looking back over comedies of the early 90’s Bad Boy Bubby is counted as a comedy?

    Man… what?
    Do I need to re-watch that I mainly remember just being kind of shocked/traumatized by it.

  10. It certainly was a different time. The fact that Danson could appear in blackface at a roast for Whoopi Goldberg the year prior and still have a career today is testament to that. I’m not going to endorse his Friar’s Club performance, but it couldn’t possibly have helped this movie critically or financially.

  11. Got this on in the background; it seems too bland to pay full attention to but it’s nice to see Glenne Headly again and I am getting a kick out of Saul Rubinek’s against type performance (although I guess I forgot he was in TRUE ROMANCE).

    There’s a bit where Culkin blows bubbles into his drink through his nose; I remember being kind of alienated by stuff like this as a kid, like was I supposed to think it was cool? Just seems unsanitary. But generally it seems like perfectly acceptable PG-rated mid-90s fare.

  12. I will always remember seeing trailers and TV spots for it and not thinking much of it. Hell, one bit that stood out from watching the trailer and spots was either Macaulay Culkin blowing bubbles in his drink while having straws up his nostrils, as well as this Warhol-inspired filtered bit with Mac saying to the camera, “I am getting even.” Then a year later, my mom bought a VHS copy of this from Blockbuster. I think it was because it was cheap. Perhaps it was on clearance? I would think so.

    It has been years since I last watched it. I thought it was okay for what it was. It was harmless, at least I thought it was. I will always remember the part when Saul Rubinek goes through the restroom while Mac stood on a toilet seat in a stall and opened up a small door, only to find another boy, who happened to be taking a leak. I would rather not quote the line because it sounds rather sketchy, but the delivery was funny, as was the effect of seeing urine spraying.

  13. I did 2 days as an extra on this film. Don’t think I made the cut (I’ve only seen half of the film; not interested in seeing the whole thing). First day was setting up a block and filming Macauley walking up to a (prop) mailbox and mailing a letter. That took most of the day to set up; went into meal penalty and finally nixed all the background action and just shot Macauley. Second day was a night shoot near Chinatown, filming Macauley walking up to a mailbox and mailing a letter.

  14. I hope your thoroughness extends to Baby’s Day Out which has a physical comedy bit I couldn’t believe in 1994 and still can’t really.

  15. They shot a scene at a bakery near my high school when I was a junior and I got to see Ted Danson wearing that ridiculous ponytail from 10 feet away!

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>