a/perture Cinema, Charlie Lau, Chicago White Sox, Donald Sutherland, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, IMDb, Jason Robards, Kiefer Sutherland, Marsha Mason, Matthew Broderick, Max Dugan Returns, Neil Simon, Netflix, Stand By Me, The Less Desirables
The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, brought to you by a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, is Max Dugan Returns (1983), starring Jason Robards, Marsha Mason, Donald Sutherland and Matthew Broderick.
Per IMDb: “An English teacher and struggling single mother has her life disrupted when the father who abandoned her as a child comes back into her life (sic).”
First off, let me say, I’ve never seen so many Volkswagen Beetles in one film. In the first seven minutes (literally, I checked), two of which were animated opening credits, I saw nine different ones.
This is a Neil Simon picture. He wrote and produced it. He was, at the time, married to the star, Marsha Mason, who plays Nora McPhee, a widow with a 15 year old son, Michael, played by Matthew Broderick. She’s an underpaid English teacher (aren’t they all underpaid) that is a bit haphazard and going through a lot of trials and tribulations. In what could have been a blessing, her 1964 Volvo PV544, a beat-up and detriment to society was stolen and a detective named Brian Costello, played by Donald Sutherland, comes to investigate. They become romantically involved.
Max Dugan, Nora’s long-lost father who abandoned her as a child shows up with a bit of money that he had “re-stolen” from a casino in Vegas. He tells her that he’s dying; only about five months to live. She wants him to leave but allows him to stay for just a little while. During this time he replaces all the worn out appliances in her dilapidated rental house replaced and fine luxury items such as video cameras and large televisions placed in the home as well. She doesn’t want Michael to know that Max is his grandfather so she swears Max to secrecy and he makes up an alias (or two). She also has her motorbike, one that Brian let her use as a replacement for the stolen car, stolen as well. She shows up at home with a Mercedes in the driveway. Max wants to make up for not being there and says that the money was his and he’s giving it to Nora and Michael. That’s why all the expensive gifts.
She has to balance spending time with Brian, remember he’s a detective, and not allowing him to know that her father is a crook. That becomes a mite difficult with the car and impossible when Max has her entire home remodeled (in a day… uh huh). Max even hires (real-life) hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox, Charlie Lau, to help Charlie get over his suckiness at hitting a baseball. The film continues on, keeping Brian in the dark about Max and so on. You’ll have to watch the film to see how it turns out.
Making a very brief cameo in the film is Kiefer Sutherland and if you’re not watching (the Nora dropping Michael at school scene at beginning of film), you certainly won’t see him. He has no lines. It was his and Broderick’s first film roles. Kiefer had a mullet started, by then. Both of them would blow up in the next bit. This film was a mere three years from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Stand By Me; both released in 1986. It the first of only three films that Kiefer and Donald are in together.
Rotten Tomatoes has it at 75% Fresh with an audience score of 68%. IMDb has it at 6.6 stars out of 10. I found nothing remarkable about this film. I remember it coming out when I was 12 and I remember it being advertised on HBO. I didn’t really care then and I don’t really care, one way or the other, today. When selecting films to review for the blog I saw it come across as a choice. Based on seeing the ads for it back then, and always looking for stuff from the early- to mid-80s to watch, I put it on. I wouldn’t have missed anything if I hadn’t. You’d think with the star power of the film, and the fact that it was a Neil Simon picture, that this would have been a better film. It didn’t suck but it wasn’t anything to write home (or even perhaps a blog) about. With that I’m giving it a generous 3 stars out of 5. I saw it on Netflix.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“You’ve got enough dirty deals in your life. Don’t turn your back on a payoff.” – Max Dugan