Some movies look at a kiddie pool full of green goo and turn away in disgust. These films seek higher, funnier ground. Others, much like a Nickelodeon TV series or Tim Allen movie, never met a kiddie pool full of green goo they didn't want to drop their lead actors in - preferably, face first.
Today, we have the latter.
So, against better judgment, I will now give away the plot of Yours, Mine & Ours, the new Dennis Quaid-Rene Russo remake of the 1968 Big Family Picture. The Big Family Picture, incidentally, is more or less traced back to the original Cheaper by the Dozen (1950, itself an adaptation of a memoir from the real-life Gilbreth clan); its Steve Martin remake gets a sequel next month.
The Citizen Kane of this sort of movie is not a film but a TV series, The Brady Bunch; and it flourishes when birth rates soar (and yes, they are soaring, giving us another thing to blame on sex.)
Anyway, the plot:
Quaid plays a Coast Guard admiral who cannot leave his job at the office. His children wear pleats, walk in tight formation, and call him "Admiral." Russo plays a handbag designer and free-spirit who believes children should do what works (within the bounds of the law, of course). The two spot each other at a class reunion. Since they last saw each other - decades earlier at prom, when they were sweethearts - they have been married and widowed. They get married on a whim, and since they don't actually have a wedding until the last scene, I question whether they were living in sin for 90 minutes; also, I question why people so ill-suited would jump into marriage after roughly five seconds of meet-cute time.
Dennis has eight children of assorted ages, a mini blue-eyed, blond-haired armada. Rene has 10 - four biologically, six adopted, of assorted ages, but also race, nationality, and unlike Dennis' Stepford children, temperament. The two sets of kids hate each other. They move into a lighthouse, which should be the set-up for a horror picture, but here just means everything builds to the lighting of the lantern, which symbolizes comfort, or hope, or maybe a red-tag sale.
In a mean-spirited twist, the kids band together and plot to induce a divorce in their parents, thereby liberating each side of the other. This, however, puts the kids in a situation that forces them to work together. But tragedy looms. The house burns down. Three of the 18 children lose fingers. And not only have they induced a divorce, but Protective Services are brought in.
I argued that from the start.
Anyhow: Dennis and Rene decide people with 18 children between them should not get married. The kids are sold back to Nickelodeon. The family's beloved pet pig kills itself. The end.
Two thirds of that is completely true. I won't tell you which two-thirds. It should not be a shock: Yours, Mine & Ours is Cheaper by the Dozen for people who didn't get the jokes. Quaid smooches a pig. His eyes go all buggy. That sort of thing, with less characterization than the typical TV pilot of the same material would allow - pitched to a demographic, one can only assume, that lives miles from civilization and hasn't seen a movie since the original Yours, Mine & Ours. How else to explain Quaid sitting down to his laptop and muttering to himself, "This Internet is so darn easy"?
So, you're left with thoughts:
Why is the slapstick so brutal for a PG? Why do Quaid and Russo never mention the names of their dead spouses? And you make a mental catalog of every subset of child only a bad movie would love: the gay child (into fashion), the black child (who raps, of course), the blond girl (a cheerleader), the young Republicans (very Alex P. Keaton), the screaming brats, the snide Dawson's Creek wannabes, the artsy gal, the athlete, the rebel, the towheaded cutie. Everyone's here but the kid who holds out to see Wallace & Gromit instead.
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