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April 03, 1996 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-04-03

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8- TheMichigan Daily - Wednesday, April 3, 1996

New film is the same old'Thing'
Big stars save mediocre movie from a lack of originality

By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
"A Family Thing," as it announces

have.
The difference is that Duvall's Earl
is a more complete, more peculiar
character: That brand of a casual semi-

very early on, is one
special" affairs:
Sweet and well-
intentioned to the
pointofqueasiness. It
tells a story of Earl, a
marginally sympa-
thetic redneck from
Arkansas (Robert
Duvall) who finds out
that he is half black
and an illegitimate
childofahushedmas-
ter-and-maid ro-
mance.

of those "very

REVIEW
A Family Thing

racist, the guy
who freely uses
racial epithets
just because his
dad used to do
the same.
While abun-
dant in real life,
this specimen
is extremely
rare in the
movies, where
a denizen is al-

Directed by Richard Pearce
with Robert Duvall
and James Earl Jones
At Showcase

We've all heard this one before (for
example, in Loungine's "Luna Park,"
where a neo-Nazi thug finds out he's
half Jewish), or at least it feels like we

lowed to be either a bleeding-heart
liberal or a jackbooted maniac.
What's also unique about this situ-
ation is that Earl's discovery is both
his reward and comeuppance at the

same time. We get to sympathize withA:
the man and giggle at the redneck's
wild discomfort: He looks in the mir-
ror for the first time after reading a
fateful letter, physically feeling his
blood cells align in two feuding camps. -J12
Unfortunately, the ignorance is pun-
ished and the lesson is learned too early
in the film; what we're inevitably left
with in the second hour is a movie'
chock full of nice people saying the
right things. Earl sets out to find his
black half brother, Ray (James Earl
Jones), who is a Chicago cop.
Earl drives his truck to the Windy
City, and the movie starts spinning out
cute little devices that would force him
to stay in town for a day, then another -
day, then another ... which means for
the rest of the movie, we're stuck with
Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones
conversing. "Wow! Check it out! Sheena Eastonl"
Thankfully, both are great actors.
Jones and Duvall obviously like what " ".
they're doing (heck, the whole movieee m ovie i. 107 U7 V o
each other with an ease and effortlesskidem ve sfo th'Dg
charm that seems to have strayed into By Jennifer Petlinski and foremost get the horn so that all dogs can actually go to
this picture from another genre; it al- Daily Film Editor Heaven (Walk around the gate, dummies!) 2. Using g
most makes one wonder if they should This time, MGM Family Entertainment brings back the doggie charm, he must sweep sexpot Sasha off her hind legs,
stop searching their souls and go stick story of lovable cartoon-pup Charlie Barkin (as if you can't and 3. Charlie's got to help David get back home.
up a money train, or something to that figure out what kind of animal he is by his name) and his Although the characters are cute and the plot workable
effect. adventures on Earth as a dead, dead dog. Wow, that sounds (relatively speaking), make no mistake: This is no Disney
The screenplay, however, doesn't so morbid - but true. movie. The funny lines are scarce, and when they actually do
offer them much help. The writers are Charlie's adventure begins - where do you think, stupid? surface, they are so dumb that those of us who are over 10 can
much too concerned with balancing out - in heaven. At an awards ceremony, Carface, the evil dog only wince.
everything about the two characters so who has somehow ended up in the wrong place, plans to steal Sorry, Charlies (get it?), this kiddie flick is exactly that - a
that neither has an edge. Earl is the fish- Gabriel's horn. Without the horn, no new dogs can be kiddie flick. Unlike "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid,""All
out-of-water half of the couple, so Ray admitted into Heaven, simply because it opens the gate. DogsGoToHeaven2"hasnothingtoofferpeoplewhoareolder
is awarded a cute speech impediment; (Note: Never mind that the gate is only about five feet across, than 5. It hurts to be excluded, doesn't it?
this way, he won't seem so intimidat- and the dogs couldjust as easily walk around it to get in.) For Regardless, Charlie Sheen's voice is perfect for the fug
ing. Ray has a cynical son, and Earl has the sake of the children's movie, we'll just pretend that this protagonist. Even though Charlie Barkin has a definite purpose
a flighty daughter. Both served in Ko- horn thief is causing some major problems. on Earth, in two seconds' time, he forgets all about his mission
rea in the same year (without meeting The Flying Nun (don't even ask ... just go with it) sends for love. Yet Sheen's voice adds an irresistible quality to
each other, of course). These transpar- Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and his buddy Charlie, and we forgive him instantly for
entpre-calculations eventually drag the Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise) to San REVIEW his flaws. Afterall, how long can you stay
pathos down. Francisco, Earth to retrieve the horn. mad at a talking dog?
What's odd about "A Family Thing" Before the two friends depart, The Fly- All Dogs Go AndSHEENA EASTON. Nowthere's
is that even in its harshest moments ing Nun leaves them with one piece of to Heaven 2 a blast from the past. Besides appearing
(four guys pummel Earl in the middle advice: "To find the horn, follow its on a recent episode of Ricki Lake's "I-
of a street, grab his wallet and drive off noise." Duh - OK, sister - like they ** want-to-meet-my-idol" (yes, Shee
in his truck), it manages to remain wist- couldn't figure that one out on their own. Easton is actually someone's idol), a
ful, ponderous and a tad whimsical. Once in San Francisco, Charlie quickly Directed by Paul Sabella sure haven't seen her in a while. Still, in
Like "White Man's Burden" not so forgets his purpose; within five minutes, and Larry Leker; with the this film,wegetthechancetoseesome of
long ago, this movie takes on a touchy he falls in love with Sasha La Fleur (the voices of Charlie Sheen her best work. Then again, though, in
topic and then makes sure it feels abso- voice of Sheena Easton), the sexy singer. comparison to "Strut," can anything else
lutely mundane. To complicate things even more, Sasha and Sheena Easton be worse?
Naturally, this approach produces is keeping David, an 8-year-old human At Briarwood and Showcase And forget about it. In case you were
certain critical indifference. "A Family boy at her place. David hasjust run away planning on checking outthis flick,never
Thing" is hard to pan and even harderto from his home, thinking that his pregnant stepmother and fear: You don't even have to see the first one to understand its
endorse; it is entirely up to you to de- father don't love him anymore. Kid problems, you know. sequel. Neat, huh? In fact, it's probably better if you don't see
cide whether this is your cup of tea. If Between various singing and dancing routines and attempts both. In the first one, Charlie returns to Earth to help some
you are able to watch a movie just to to help David, Charlie and Itchy meet Carface and his boss Red, orphan girl find a home. Sounds vaguely familiar.
take in the fine acting and the pretty the evil cat who is cleverly posing as a dog. The evil forces have Are you 5 years old? Do people frequently tell you that you
camera work, you'll be fine. somehow lost track of Gabriel's horn, which they need in order act like you are 5 years old? Are you in love with Charlie
If, however, you're looking for some- to get all the dogs from heaven into ajail cell on Earth. Suddenly Sheen? Do you walk around singing "Strut?" If so, "All Dogs
thing bolder than that - well, it's "A everyone needs this horn, and the race is on! Go To Heaven 2" is killer entertainment.
Family Thing," and chances are, you At this point, even a 5-year-old can tell that good 'ol Still, as faras talking animalsgo,"All DogsGoTo Heaven
wouldn't understand. Charlie Barkin's got his work cut out forhim: 1. He must first 2" is cute, but certainly not the best of the bunch.
Theater students offer a'Lesson'in absurdity,
By Erin Crowley weekend - a universe where a Collins-deliver upaplay in which the philology.
For the Daily professor's lesson can hardly be said to "banality of ordinary life (is) shot What we begin to detect is a subterra-
April has struck, people are prancing sedate his pupil. A more appropriate through by horror." nean universe - both menacing and
about on the Diag and classes, no doubt, description goes something like this ... The disquieting absurdity of primitive - creeping into the language
have become a chore - that heavy, his lesson sadistically tortures her. lonesco's modernist theater first drew of this seemingly bashful professor, as
insipid, pulse-slowing feeling sets in Sounds slightly sick. It is. But, in true Kuhn to "The Lesson," where, as she he begins to work his linguistic sorcery
now every time one sits down to a lonesco style, this play promises to jar explains, "walls do not meet at right on his vulnerable, precocious student.
lecture. All the more credit to student any spring-fever students out of their angles." What we are initially presented The lesson slips almost unnoticeably
director Jen Kuhn for bringing the blas6 indifference, as Kuhn and her with is the banal, the familiar - a into a merciless inquisition, gagging
absurdist universe of Eugene lonesco's collaborative staff of scenographers- young girl arrives at a professor's house the young girl and paralyzing her in a
"The Lesson" to the Arena stage this Beth Turomsha, Ryan Palmer and Paul for a simple lesson in arithmetic and state of helpless terror. As Kuhn

"So here we are. Two old guys in a new film, huh?"

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