The Scoop: 1991 PG-13, directed by Peter Faiman and starring Ed O’Neill and Ethan Embry
Tagline: They’re the best of friends… And they’ve got the scars to prove it.
Summary Capsule: A mom’s working class boyfriend goes to bring her snob son home for Thanksgiving.
Eunice’s Rating: I choose to find the good in most things.
Eunice’s Review: Ed O’Neill plays Dutch, a blue collar guy who loves his girlfriend. Problem is, the girlfriend shares a kid with her evil rich ex-husband (sleazeball extraordinaire Christopher McDonald) said kid, Doyle, blames her for the divorce. When the evil ex decides to cancel spending Thanksgiving with the son, and dump the actual news breaking at Mom’s feet, it doesn’t go over so well with Doyle. When Doyle refuses to fly home on his own, Dutch says he’ll go get him, it’ll give them a chance to get to know each other while she’ll get to spend the holiday with her son. Wins all around right?
Unfortunately in his misguided anger towards his mother Doyle has started taking after his dad, turning him into a high maintenance snobby mini-bastard with no friends. Even the other snobs can’t stand him! So when the gruff Dutch confronts the stubborn Doyle to drive him back to Chicago, the result is a roadtrip movie full of kidnapping, pain, collateral damage, and hookers. John Hughes style.
Dutch is a movie that I haven’t actually watched since I was a kid. I remember not really liking it… I also remembered it as a Christmas movie (Thanksgiving, surprise!). And well, some movies are better going back and watching them again. Which isn’t saying all that much in this case.
There are some people who genuinely hate this movie, and it can be easy to see why. Dutch was among the first titles to mark the downward spiral of John Hughes movies (third after still commercially successful Home Alone, and the completely forgotten Career Opportunities [I think it’s no coincidence that this turn came after Molly Ringwald creatively broke up with Hughes over Some Kind of Wonderful and around the same time time of John Candy’s death]). For those of us old enough to remember loving Hughes’ ’80s classics to be rudely awakened in the ’90s, Dutch became a joke, the go to example for a flop. Even people who’ve never seen it know it was bad, real bad. Potentially career ending.
Dutch is even more vulgar and lacks the inherently likable Candy-ish-ness of Buck, but fills the same roll of rough babysitter. Doyle’s thirteen year old self is a million times more grating to Tia’s seventeen, and is pretty well a psychopath (think The Good Son), and lacks any redeemable qualities. And where Buck and Planes balanced out and relieved the dark comedy with funny haha moments (“Those aren’t pillows!”), there isn’t really much of that going on here. Nor are there any moments of real emotional connection between the mains, no real point where they turn the corner in their relationship, at least not so that the movie ever earns its ending making it goofy. It is so so preachy on classism, like a hammer over the head (see: Life Stinks also from 1991).
But on it’s own, not compared to other, better Hughes movies? With lowered expectations? It’s not as bad as I remember it. There are a couple moments that made me laugh. And occasionally there are some good scenes and good ideas. The scenes between Dutch and Natalie (JoBeth Williams as the mom) are pretty sincere. And the hooker plot feels like classic Hughes. How the movie never really tells you what it is Dutch does until the end, and then treats it as an afterthought, because (as I choose to interpret) at this point it’s not as important to Doyle, I like that. Also, minor spoiler, any time Christopher McDonald gets punched in a movie is fine with me.
There was enough good that I don’t regret going back and watching it (*cough*The Great Outdoors*cough*). Having widened my film experiences it doesn’t completely earn its all consumingly terrible rep.
So that’s my conclusion on Dutch, it’s not as bad as its reputation would have you think, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually good.
Now the question of what is up with Thanksgiving movies being depressing and mean spirited?
- Ed O’Neill and Ethan Embry would go on to play partners in the short lived 2003 version of Dragnet.
- Dutch was referenced a couple times (not in a good way) on Married… With Children.
- The second of only two movies Peter Faiman would direct, after Crocodile Dundee, and his last directing credit at all. Like I said “career ending.”
Party Woman: Libby, this is Natalie Standish. Natalie is Reed’s… Oh, is it alright to…
Natalie: Say that Reed got me pregnant when I was a barhop at your country club? Married me to avoid scandal? Spent the next ten years sucking the life out of me? Got bored with me, dumped me, and screwed me in court? Sure, go ahead.
Party Woman: Uh… Natalie is Reed’s ex-wife.
Natalie: You wouldn’t dare play fair, would you?
Reed: I wouldn’t dare lose.
Dutch: I don’t care for caviar, I make it a policy never to eat something a fish deposits in a riverbed.
Dutch: Excuse me, I understand what you were saying to Natalie was personal. Well, I’m involved with her now so this is personal too; you hurt her and I’ll hit you so ******* hard your dog will bleed, okay?
Doyle: We have a very big problem here.
Dutch: I suppose we do. I have a problem because I told your mother I’d pick you up. And you have a problem because the last guy that punched me has a dent in his forehead the size of my pinky ring, and he dribbles when he smiles.
Dutch: Working for your money doesn’t matter in your neck of the woods, it’s whose crotch the doctor yanked you out of.
Dutch: Nothing burps better than bacon. Your water looked tasty.
Dutch: You and I are riding in the back seat from now on. Because what that missile twister can teach you, you don’t need to learn ’til you’re in prison.
Dutch: It’s your mother’s fault.
Doyle: Why is it her fault?
Dutch: Because she gave birth to you.
Doyle: And what about your mother?
Dutch: My mother’s a saint.
Doyle: For what, havin’ puppies?
Dutch: Frankly, I don’t care if you live, die, or grow mushrooms in your crack.
Dutch: I’ve talked to you and talked to you until I can puke coat hangers.
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