It seems only appropriate that Yours, Mine, and Ours is released on the Thanksgiving weekend. While much of America is gathered around tables in a mass effort to keep the turkey population in check, Hollywood continues to revel in a feast of its own. Theirs, however, is a gruesomely cannibalistic banquet and Yours, Mine and Ours is the latest example. Frankly, I’m getting rather tired of the movie industry gorging on its old successes and tossing us the bones.
In all fairness, not all remakes are complete and utter disasters. Sure the odds of one outshining the original are slimmer than finding someone who thought Vin Diesel was funnier than the duck in The Pacifier, but occasionally it happens. However, if your desire is to have your remake be guaranteed almost unwatchable there is a sure-fire measure you can take: let Nickelodeon make it! Yours, Mine and Ours has the feeling of a movie that could been decent, perhaps even as good as the 1968 original, but any potential has been covered over in a thick layer of disgusting green slime and unmistakable Nickelodeon orange paint.
The story is a simple one. On one side you have a widowed Coast Guard admiral (Dennis Quaid) who doesn’t so much run a family as a mini-version of the Naval Academy. He keeps a tight ship and his eight, well-groomed, well-behaved children have that Sound of Music look that leaves you expecting them to beak into a round of Eidel Weiss at any second. On the other end there’s the touchy-feely, hippie but hip widow (Rene Russo) whose mostly adopted household of ten children is more racially diverse than the cast of Star Trek: Voyager. Her strategy of parenting involves a careful balance of “do whatever you want” and “think about what you did”, resulting in one of the best arguments I’ve ever seen for the existence of bad-parenting induced ADHD (sometimes it’s cured with discipline, folks, not Ritalin).
Somehow this widow and widower were once high school sweethearts. They find themselves drawn together by the one thing they have in common: they both have a lot of kids. Despite the fact that most people won’t even kiss on the first date much less tie the knot, the happy couple hastily get married without consulting their considerable broods. When the two families are immediately tossed under the same roof with each other, the personalities don’t so much clash as the lifestyles and chaos ensues. Naturally that chaos is the foundation for most of the movie’s comedic moments: a barrage of prat-falls and gross outs that are ridiculously Nickelodeon. I couldn’t help groaning out loud when Dennis Quaid’s character literally fell into a kiddie pool of green slime.
When the kids decide it’s time to tear their cobbled family back into two pieces, they figure the best way is making their parents miserable with each other. This is hardly a Herculean task given that the two are about as opposite as two people can get. The children seem to be reasonably alert and intelligent human beings. Nevertheless they regularly miss the painfully obvious bonds they are developing with each other in their struggle to rip themselves apart. These bonding moments are unnecessarily cliché and excruciating to watch, the exception being those involving the very young kids who are darling enough to pull it off.
The comedy may be contrived and the subplots absurd, but there are moments when the film shines. I’m convinced that at some point this was a really great concept for a remake, hence the presence of class acts like Quaid and Russo. In all fairness, the scenes involving the grown-ups really aren’t that bad; it’s the children’s moments that Nickelodeon seems to have monkeyed up the most. The result is two different movies playing out at the same time, one a drama about the parents and the other a comedy about their kids. The two separate movies mix about as well as the two families and its not until the end of the film (when comedic side has beaten itself to death) that the drama takes over that I realized how good a movie this really could have been.
Even the comedy could have made for some good scenes if it hadn’t been so artificial. As if eighteen kids didn’t pose sufficient opportunity for laughs, there had to be a pig involved. Not to be mistaken with the other copious family pets who hold their rightful places as animal props, the pig gets its very own personality and plenty of chances to upstage the human actors. For some reason the director didn’t realize that a belching pig is really only funny the first time unless you’re three years old. The rest of the humor involving the kids relies on sight gags and stereotypes (the ten year old Asian Carson Kressley quickly become my favorite to hate). It’s not the child actors’ faults to be sure. They do the best they can with really bad directing and even worse writing.
While Yours, Mine and Ours is innocent enough to be a good movie for families, I’d like to think we want to show our kids movies that will make them appreciate their intelligence, not insult it. There are clever moments to be sure, like the family all trying to get their names onto the answering machine message before it times out, but for the most part it’s a movie with very little new or interesting to offer. Thankfully Dennis and Rene’s careers shouldn’t be too scarred by this debacle and the child actors have plenty of time to be cast in much better projects. The rest of us can go back to our holiday feasting and ignore this flawed remake which really shouldn’t ever have been made in the first place.