Director: Peter Faiman
Written by John Hughes
Release Date: 19 July 1991
Running Time: 107 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Editorís Rating: 3 out of 4 pinky rings
The holidays are upon us once again. Great. I didnít even hit the weight loss goal I told myself Iíd blow away once we all started carving turkeys. Oh well, at least the season gives me the chance to talk about a bunch of funny holiday movies, and first on deck is this film. Why? Because itís the only movie I can think of that actually takes place around Thanksgiving as opposed to the December holidays of endless derision.
Can you guys think of any more?
Tell me in our forum!
Dutch was written by the late and legendary John Hughes, who penned such other classic films such as Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, and Beethovenís 5th.
Hey, no matter how good you are, they canít all be gems. But Dutch seems to be a film that has flown rather under the radar when compared to his other works, but thatís just because films that inspired generations of filmmakers decades later can be a bit of a tough act to follow.
The film kicks off as the titular Dutch Dooley (Ed OíNeill), a blue-collar, workiní class, no-nonsense kinda guy, agrees to transport his new girlfriend Natalieís (JoBeth Williams) son, Doyle, (Ethan Embry) cross country from his exclusive boarding school in Georgia to Chicago so he and his mother can be together at Thanksgiving. Reed (played by quintessential bad guy of the 1990s Christopher McDonald), Doyleís father and Natalieís ex-husband, has cancelled his plans for Doyle to spend Thanksgiving with him and left Natalie to explain the situation. Doyle, who acts like a carbon copy of his father, is none too happy with the change of plans, showing blind devotion to his dad. However, where Reed is a posh buttcheek, Doyle is actually a very sharp and astute scholar of several different disciplines, from economics to martial arts. So when Dutch arrives at Doyleís dorm, things happen. Iíd say fireworks fly, but thatís not until later in the movie.
Looking back on it, this film is like Shakespeareís Taming of the Shrew meets Home Alone, but the taming doesnít end in the Shrew getting married. Itís to stop a kid from becoming a terrible person. However, what passed for tough love in the Ď90s might be considered child abuse today. Things like starving a child because he canít pay for his breakfast or making a kid walk down a deserted highway in the middle of November as a way to teach him a lesson might be a little extreme today. But in all honesty, the little bugger deserved it.
Doyle Standish, like most kids in movies not made for children, is written like a grown human being, with pangs of ignorance that might be recognizable in other older, more sheltered characters. And to Doyleís credit, for every piece of grief heís given by Dutch, Doyle did something to initiate it, and also pays Dutch right back, most of the time in spades. Ethan Embry does a serviceable job with a very cookie-cutter personality, and even tries to inject a little softness in a character thatís about as welcoming as a doormat with nails through it.
Ed OíNeill is awesome here, but itís kind of expected: the film was made back when Married with Children was riding high, and heís basically playing Al Bundy with an associateís degree. But to his credit, he knocks it out of the park. He creates moments of actual concern and compassion amidst his working-class parody, making Dutch more believeable in turn.
In the end, this film is a great cheeseball of early-90s nostalgia, back when the influence of the 80s was still riding high and the whimsical road movie was still popular. The material hasnít aged well over time, but itís a nice time capsule to come back to and remember days gone by.
A time capsule with a deck of nudie playing cards.
**I watched this film on an internet streaming service I subscribe to. I was not compensated for this review.**