Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1989. Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures. Story by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Ron Howard, Screenplay by Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel. Cinematography by Donald McAlpine. Produced by Brian Grazer. Music by Randy Newman. Production Design by Todd Hallowell. Costume Design by Ruth Morley. Film Editing by Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill. Academy Awards 1989. Golden Globe Awards 1989.
The terrifying adventure of raising kids is the subject of this absolutely wonderful comedy-drama. Steve Martin stars as an exasperated, overworked dad who has to deal with his emotionally unstable son (Jasen Fisher) and his beautiful wife’s (Mary Steenburgen) frustrations. Martin’s sister (Dianne Wiest) is dealing with single motherhood, trying to do right by her rebellious daughter (Martha Plimpton) and uncommunicative son (Joaquin Phoenix, then known as Leaf). Martin’s other sister (Harley Jane Kozak) is married to an overachieving brainiac (Rick Moranis) who seems to want their five year-old daughter to get her PhD before she even hits the first grade. Enter the wild card, the youngest brother of the family (Tom Hulce) who always brings disaster in his gambling-addicted wake, while his aging parents (Jason Robards, Eileen Ryan) continue to try and help. The cast is uniformly excellent, with a brilliant Wiest getting the choicest moments and lines (the scene where she looks through her daughter’s sex photos is a scream). Ron Howard’s surprisingly good direction and the smart screenplay deftly mix serious, heartfelt situations with terrific comedy that makes the whole experience come off as something extremely close to home for anyone watching.