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Director: Dean Parisot
Cast:
Drew Barrymore
Luke Wilson
Catherine O Hara
Jake Busey
Shelley Duvall
Genre: Comedy

Okay, so there are all kinds of BAD. Some things are bad because they're boring and pretentious, some things are bad because they're moronic, some things are bad because they're hopelessly schmaltzy. But my least favorite kind of BAD are the things that come close to being GOOD, but then drop the ball and leave the audience wretching in a state of suspended coital interruptus. This includes Alanis Morrissette, "Party of Five," digital cell phones, sun-dried tomatoes and President Clinton. It also comes pretty close to describing two movies coming out on your Thanksgiving weekend, namely "Home Fries" and "Very Bad Things."

Both are starring the Actress Darlings of the moment (Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz, respectively), both are twisted comedies with plenty of impossibly screwy plot shenanigans, and both are a LOT better than either trailer would lead you to believe. I swear, when I saw the teaser for "Very Bad Things," I wanted my money back two weeks before it came out.

"Home Fries" begins innocently enough, with a pregnant Drew Barrymore working the day shift at a lonely Burger Mart drive-through. Her impregnator is scared to death, literally, by a pair of helicopter pilot brothers who then have to cover their tracks. But you know, those pesky drive-through transmitters are always getting crossed with military frequencies (huh?!?) and pretty soon one of the brothers (Luke Wilson) has to get a job with Ms. Barrymore to see how much she knows about the plan. Will love ensue? Does the Dalai Lama wear a funny bathrobe?

"Fries" could have been a wacky caper...or it could have been a genuine family drama about love. In trying to be both, it leaves the main characters, and indeed most of the audience, feeling like a schizophrenic about to have a grand mal seizure. Throw in Jake Busey, again typecast as a sociopathic loon ("Contact," "Enemy of the State") and you start to feel genuinely cheated out of a great time.

"Home Fries" is human enough, but sells its soul for some cheap thrills. Luke Wilson and Jake Busey have a brotherly banter with psycho mom Catherine O'Hara that is almost impossible to fake without having come from a real family, yet the whole dynamic is destroyed by a relentlessly silly helicopter escapade. Even when Drew Barrymore is at her most irresistible—which she is—one can only hope that her next project finds her transcending the world of FRUSTRATING into something more comfortable.

—Ian Williams

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© Copyright 2002 Ian Williams