Molly Ringwald’s Baby Blues in “For Keeps”?

In the late 1980’s, there were a crop of “baby pictures” released, which entailed the main characters looking after an infant. These included “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), “Baby Boom” (1987) ,”Look Who’s Talking” (1989) and today’s topic, “For Keeps”? (1988). It is notable for starring 80’s favourite, Molly Ringwald, in her last leading role. Famous for her collaborations  with director – writer John Hughes in the “Brat Pack” movies, she eventually decided to sever ties with Hughes out of fear of becoming typecast, and wishing to pursue more adult film roles.

Ringwald plays Darcy, a high school senior who dreams of becoming a journalist. She is very much in love with her boyfriend, Stan (Randall Batinkoff). That gets tested when a weekend of sex leads to Darcy becoming pregnant. This prompts Darcy and Stan to have to face the consequences of their actions, and grow up beyond their years. Both of them face pressures from their parents regarding what to do about the baby. Darcy’s single mother Donna (Miriam Flynn) wants Darcy to get an abortion, while Stan’s devoutly Catholic parents (Kenneth Mars and Conchata Ferrell) urge them to go through with adopting the baby.

Ultimately, the young couple decide to keep their baby, and so drop out of high school and get married, but find that the responsibilities of young parenthood clash strongly with their ambitions for their future. Will they manage to tackle their newfound roles, or will they crumble under the pressure?

“For Keeps” had the best of intentions, but the production of this movie ultimately proved to be quite a troubled one. Ringwald mentioned that she originally signed on for the project to alert teenage girls about the realities of becoming parents at an early age. She would later go on to star in the ABC Family (now Freeform) series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”, where she portrayed the mother of a pregnant teenager (Shailene Woodley), for much the same reason.

They also wished to showcase a successful instance of teenage  marriages, and that not all of them end badly. The film’s director, John G. Avildsen, who was known for directing such classics as “Rocky” (1976) and “The Karate Kid” (1984)clashed with Ringwald . Ringwald and Avildsen had differing perspectives on how to address the issue of teen pregnancy, and the script reportedly had to be altered numerous times. Ringwald envisioned the project as a “funny, cautionary tale, whereas Avilsden had “an engaging love story” in mind.

To the movie’s credit, it did address some of the drawbacks of pregnancy, such as financial difficulties and postpartum depression, as Darcy and Stan move to a small apartment, and Darcy struggles to give daughter Thea (short for Theodosia!) the support and care she requires. However, this is presented in an over the top, melodramatic manner, that it can be tricky to care about their problems when they are constantly fighting in an overzealous fashion. It has been acknowledged that Ringwald hoped that this movie would pave the way for more mature projects, and judging from her overacting in some scenes, it is rather apparent. That being addressed, her scenes with Batinkoff come off as touching and emotive. Batinkoff didn’t go on to any major roles after “For Keeps”, but he gives a mature, nuanced performance for the most part.

While “For Keeps” didn’t exactly catapult the careers of anyone involved, it is notable for having an up and coming Pauly Shore in a minor role as one of Stan’s friends. The ending ends on a positive note, but it seemed like everything was tied up a little too hastily and tidily.

I’d recommend this movie if you’re a fan of Ringwald and her earlier work, or enjoy coming of age stories. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of “For Keeps”, I didn’t despise it, either, as there were some moments that were done well, yet some others (such as a toppling Christmas tree) seemed to be thrown in just to illicit some slapstick and laughs into the gravitas. In summation, “For Keeps” earns 3 out of 5 stars.

 

“Scrooged” puts a Little Love into Christmas

The next Yuletide Christmas movie we’ll be covering is “Scrooged”, the 1988 retelling of the classic Charles Dickens novel, “A Christmas Carol”. We all know the basic plot: cold-hearted miser who abhors Christmas is shown the error of his ways by three ghosts, and redeems himself. This flick follows this formula to a tee, but updates it to a TV news station in the 1980’s.

Bill Murray stars in the Ebenezer Scrooge role of Frank Cross, a perpetually grumpy TV executive who will stop at nothing to ensure that his network gets the highest ratings. He plots to make all of his workers slave away on Christmas Eve by staging a live adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”. As Cross’ own memories of Christmas was less than fond, he takes his anger and bitterness out on his long-suffering assistant Grace (Alfre Goodard), and has alienated himself from his only brother, James (played by Murray’s own brother, John). When one of his employees, Elliot (Bobcat Goldthwait) poses an objection towards one of Cross’ promos for the network, he’s callously fired.

All of this leads into a very clear parallel of Dicken’s tale, especially when Cross is accosted by his old boss, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who warns him of the impending visit of three ghosts. There’s demonic cab driver, Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johanson), the nymph Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), and the Grim Reaper-like Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Through these encounters, Cross second handly witnesses the events that transpired to convert him into the man he is at present, the miserable lives of James, Elliot and Grace thanks to his influence, and the loss of his former love, Claire (Karen Allen). Will this be enough to make Cross see the light?

The main reason I love this flick is because of Bill Murray’s conviction in the lead role. Similar to his character in “Groundhog Day”, Murray’s Cross undergoes a transformation from a selfish egotistic to a more civil individual. However, there are some moments which seemed contrived and false, such as the one where Cross gatecrashes the taping of “A Christmas Carol” to recite a monologue of what he’s learned due to his exploits. To me, this speech, while intended to be heart-warming and touching, instead seems forced. Granted, Murray does what he can in that scene to make it believable, but it still falls flat. Likewise, almost all of Cross’ interactions with the Ghost of Christmas Present involve her beating him up, which didn’t seem necessary at all. (It’s worth reporting that Carol Kane hated having to rough Murray up in their scenes together).

On the other hand, the plot is a unique retelling of a classic Christmas plot. I liked how it wasn’t a direct retelling of the tale everyone’s heard almost umpteen times, but placed its own unique spin on things. Some performances which stood out significantly to me were Alfre Goodard as the put-upon assistant, and Karen Allen as the sweet idealistic Claire.

In summation, “Scrooged” achieves two and a half stars out of five from me.  It’s worth watching for a different interpretation to “A Christmas Carol”, as well as hearing the Annie Lennox and Al Green cover of “Put a little love in your heart”. God bless us, everyone!

 

Judge Reinhold Swaps Bodies with Fred Savage- and Vice Versa!

We all recall the body swap movies of yore which seemed especially prominent in the 80’s- such as “18 Again”, “Like Father, Like Son”, “Dream a Little Dream”, and “Big”(which deviates from the standard formula in that Tom Hanks plays himself at a different age). All of those movies were released around the same time period of 1987-1989.

However, one that stands out most from my childhood is the Judge Reinhold – Fred Savage vehicle “Vice Versa” (1988). It tells the tale of Marshall Seymour (Reinhold), a harried executive  of a Chicago department store who is too busy to make time for his girlfriend/co-worker, Sam (Corinne Bohrer), or his 11 year old son, Charlie (Savage). When Marshall and Sam travel to Thailand, a mysterious bejeweled skull accidentally ends up in Marshall’s possession.

Upon his return, his ex-wife, Robyn (Jane Kaczmarek) announces that she’s booked a vacation with her new husband, so is dumping Charlie on Marshall for a few days. Neither one is satisfied with this arrangement, which isn’t helped by the fact that the two have a strained relationship.

Things come to a head one morning when Marshall and Charlie get into an argument regarding each other’s lives and simultaneously wish to switch places, whilst both are holding onto the skull. What happens next terrified me for ages after watching it- Charlie, who struggles with being small for his age, begins growing rapidly right as Marshall literally shrinks down to Charlie’s level, all with spooky music and lighting only serving to intensify the creepiness of the transformations.

Now trapped in each other’s bodies, Marshall and Charlie need to cope  with living the other’s life. Marshall realizes that school is tougher than he remembered, with school, bullies and hockey practice. Charlie is now “6′ 2 with the brain of an 11 year old” who has to cope with being the head of a department store, as well as trying not to screw things up with Sam for his dad’s sake. Adding to the complications, crooks Tina (Swoosie Kurtz) and Turk (David Proval) are on the prowl for the skull, and will go to sinister lengths to reclaim it…

While “Vice Versa” won’t be as memorable or recognized as the best 80’s flick of all time, but it’s full of laugh out loud moments. Savage is more convincing as the reasonable adult into his son’s body than the flighty kid, similar to his “Wonder Years” character. Reinhold has fun has the kid inside the adult’s body, particularly in the scene where he gets back at the bullies who tormented him, or when he’s dancing to “Mony Mony” after the swap.

I rate “Vice Versa” a total of four out of five stars, as it contains decent performances. I’d recommend this movie to kids of 12 and older. However, this flick contains swearing, with the majority of it coming from Marshall as Charlie, who additionally indulges his woes in cocktails in quite a few scenes. Nevertheless, it still manages to come across as an enjoyable flick.