Sunday, August 14, 2016

Buckmans v. Bravermans

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Weist, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves
Released: August 2, 1989

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actress - Dianne Weist (lost to Brenda Fricker for My Left Foot)
Best Song - "I Love To See You Smile" by Randy Newman (lost to The Little Mermaid for "Under the Sea" by Alan Menken and Howard Shore)

Earlier this year, I watched all five seasons of the TV show Parenthood which is based on this movie. I haven't seen this movie in a very long time that I didn't remember anything about it to compare it to the TV series. I'm pretty sure the last time I saw this movie was when I was a kid so I probably found it really boring because it's mostly about grown ups and their problems...oh, sure, there are kids with their problems, but I'm sure I found that boring too! I find the TV series to be far superior. Of course, they had five seasons to tell different stories and the characters could all have bonding moments with each other. In the movie, they only have less than two hours and you only see the relationships between husbands and wives or mothers and children; you don't really see the relationships between the grown up siblings like the TV show did so well.

It was fun to compare the movie characters with their TV counterparts. So let's compare the Buckmans (from the movie) to the Bravermans (from the TV show)! Gil (Steve Martin) and his wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen) are the counterparts to Peter Krause's Adam and Monica Potter's Kristina. While in the movie, this family is the main focus, the TV show had enough time to spend on all the families. The main difference are the kids. Gil and Karen's oldest is a nine-year-old boy, Kevin who has "emotional problems" and needs to attend a different school to get the attention he needs as well as go to therapy. Max, from the TV show, is obviously his counterpart and has been diagnosed with Asperger's. While Max has an older sister, Kevin is the oldest and has two younger siblings, Taylor and Justin who are just there to be annoying and bad child actors. Just like in the TV show, the Buckmans are avid baseball fans and Gil wants Kevin to play on the Little League team even though his son doesn't like it. While watching a game, Gil has a daydream where Kevin is the valedictorian at his college graduation and says, "I'm the happiest, confident, most well-adjusted person in this world. And I owe it all to my dad." That daydream quickly changes, however, after Kevin has dropped the ball and loses the game and everyone is heckling him. He tells his dad, "You made me play second base!" and Gil has another daydream where Kevin is shooting a gun at college students from a bell tower and yells the same line. Yeah, I don't think the studio would be able to get away with a scene like that in this day and age! Perhaps a little too dark. Just like Christina got pregnant in the TV show, Karen also becomes pregnant. When she tells Gil the big news, he's not very excited because he's just quit his job (because they gave a promotion to someone who had been there less years than he had), and worries about money and finances, but in the end everything turns out fine.

Young Wa-keen Feenix!
Then we have the single mother family. Helen Buckman (Dianne Weist) is the sister to Gil. She is divorced and has two teen kids: a sixteen year old daughter named Julie (Martha Plimpton) and a son named Gary (played by a VERY young Joaquin Phoenix...he must have been 13 or 14. In fact, he was so young, he's not credited as Joaquin, but rather by Leaf Phoenix, which I guess was a childhood nickname...thank God he changed it back!) Obviously the TV counterpart of this family is the one with Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman and the boy. I call 2016 the Year of Lauren Graham because not only did I watch Parenthood, but I also watched all of Gilmore Girls and I'm super excited for the revival coming on Netflix in November. Super, super excited! By the way, have you ever noticed that LG's character in Gilmore Girls (who also has the same initials as her portrayer) dated her daughter's high school teacher and LG's character in Parenthood dated her daughter's high school teacher? Anyway, back to the review. Julie moves out of the house with her boyfriend, Todd (Keanu Reeves) and they get married much to Helen's dismay. This was probably my favorite of the family dynamics just because there were so many funny moments. Julie and Todd takes some x-rated photos and when they go to get them after they've been developed, Julie realizes the photos she has are her mothers and her mother has the scandalous photos. You couldn't do a scene like that now since nobody ever gets their photos developed anymore since everything is digital! They get into a huge fight and Julie threatens to move out and Helen tells her if she does that, then she can never step foot in their house again. Once Julie has all her stuff packed and is heading for the door, Helen says, "I'm here if you need me! Call me if you need anything!" After Julie gets into a fight with Todd, she moves back in until Todd comes back and apologizes and they get back together again. There's a funny scene where Todd asks Helen, "Where's my wife?" and Helen tells him, "She's still at school....she has cheerleading practice." That just made me laugh out loud...or LOL as the kids say! (Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention they get married?) The movie father of this family is much more of a douchbag than his TV counterpart. At least in the TV show, he attempted to get to know his kids, but the one in the movie has his own new family and doesn't want anything to do with his kids. There's a sad scene when Gary calls his dad and asks if he can stay with him for a few months, but is denied permission so he breaks into his dental office where he works and vandalizes everything. When Helen finds a porno videotape in a sack he's always carrying around (and disguised with a Back to the Future cover), she understands her son needs a man in his life to help answer any questions he has. She asks him if he wants to talk to his Uncle Gil about anything (after she asks him if she can answer any questions he might have) but he doesn't want to. Finally she gets Todd, probably the last person she wants talking to her son. There's a really funny exchange where Todd tells her that Gary got his first boner and asks her, "Do you know what that is?" and she replies, "If memory servers." It's a bit of a running joke that it's been a long time since Helen has any action.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if Nathan (Rick Moranis) or his wife, Susan (Harley may remember her as Jeff Daniel's wife in Arachnophobia) was the Buckman siblings, but after some research, I found out that Susan is the Buckman. I knew this family was the movie counterpart to Julia and Joel. They also have a young daughter, Patty, who is very bright and they teach new things to. Nathan is way more annoying than Joel, though. In fact, I never found Joel to be annoying. Julia was a lot more like Nathan than she is like the more easy going Susan who wants a divorce from Nathan because he is too focused on making sure their daughter is superior than all the other children her age (and he looks down on all his nephews and nieces because they're not as smart as his daughter). Susan wants to have more children, but Nathan says they needs to focus on Patty. She tells him she's leaving him, but he wins her back when he serenades her in front of the middle school class she teaches. There's a scene where Patty is at her cousin's birthday party and Gil is showing all the little kids the thumb trick where it looks like his thumb is being separated (ha, I remember when my friend's dad showed me that and I was completely amazed). I thought for sure Patty was going to tell him how he really did the trick, but instead she screams and runs away. I thought this girl was suppose to be super smart?

Larry (Tom Hulce)'s TV counterpart is Dax Shepard's Crosby. He's a bit of a free spirit and introduces his family to his son, Cool, who's black. The TV show makes a lot more sense where Joy Brant shows up and introduces Crosby to the son he never knew he had. Here, he just shows up with the kid, who's at least five and says he met his mother who was an exotic dancer and had a one-night stand with her. We never see or hear from the mother. Larry gets into some money problems with gambling and has to get help from his father (Jason Robards). Speaking of the parents, while Papa Buckman has a good amount of scenes, their mother is hardly in the movie so they utilized Bonnie Bedelia in the TV show much more better!

The movie ends at the hospital and we see a woman giving birth, though they don't show who it is. We are suppose to think it's either Karen or Julie, who has announced she and Todd are expecting a child. When the woman and her baby are about to be revealed, the camera pans to all the family members. When you see Karen holding a baby, you think it's Julie, but then you see her standing next to Todd holding a baby. That's when you realize the only person you haven't seen yet is Helen and the man who comes out to announce that the baby is a girl is the man she's dating who is also Gary's biology teacher. It was kind of jarring to see they were having a baby since they had only been on one date, but whatever. I felt like they just did it to surprise the audience because I sure as hell wasn't expecting that. I wished it had just been Julie having the baby and we would have seen a nice moment between her and her mother, but instead they had to go for the surprise ending even though I feel like Helen was too old to be having children by then.

So I think the TV show is much more superior, but like I said, they did have five years of story telling to better flesh out the characters and story lines and I guess the show wouldn't exist without the movie. I do think the kid actors from the TV show are much, MUCH better than the kid actors in the movie. I did wonder why it took so long for them to make a TV show based on the movie because it seemed so perfect for a television series. The movie was released in 1989 and the show didn't start until 2010. Well, imagine my surprise when I found out there was a Parenthood TV show before the one we all know and love with Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia and Monica Potter and Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen and Joy Bryant and Peter Krause and Mae Whitman and Ray Romano and Michael B. Jordan (okay, I won't list the entire cast!) and all the others we love. This show came out in 1990 and aired for one season on NBC. (Which also aired the 2010 version...I guess enough time had passed! Or maybe NBC has the rights to it). Instead of giving new names to the characters like they do in the updated version, all of them have the same names, but are just played by different actors (though a couple of the kids came back to play the same's not like they'll be cast in anything else!) Imagine my surprise when I found out Leonardo DiCaprio played Gary. Of course, this was before he was famous so nobody cared. And since they didn't care, they didn't watch. I'm old enough to remember 1990, but I DO NOT remember this Parenthood TV show at all! I didn't know who Leonardo DiCaprio was until 1996. MAYBE 1995...I don't remember, but I definitely didn't know who he was in 1990! I guess the show had decent reviews, but was cancelled because of low is the case when shows are cancelled.

Here is the opening credits of the 1990 TV show. I think the song they use is the same one that is used in the movie. It is sung by Randy Newman and it sounds exactly (to my ears, anyway) like the song he sang for Toy Story.  Also, I had no idea Thora Birch (who played the daughter of the Steve Martin Character) was the Cher of her younger years as she only goes by "Thora". Hilarious. What ever happened to Thora Birch? Last time I saw her she played Kevin Spacey's daughter in American Beauty and that's been a long time now!

And because I love it so much, here are the opening credits for the 2010 TV show. I like this song much better before they changed it for the last two seasons...I don't even remember what that song was called or how it went, but I like this one much better:

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