May 13, 2015

filmsgraded.com:
Home Fries (1998)
Grade: 57/100

Director: Dean Parisot
Stars: Luke Wilson, Drew Barrymore, Catherine O'Hara

What it's about. A offbeat romantic comedy set in rural Texas. Twenty-something Drew Barrymore works the drive-thru window at the local hamburger joint. The unwed redhead beauty is seven months pregnant, and because it is a movie, the father-to-be is the much older and balding businessman Chris Ellis.

Ellis is married to Catherine O'Hara, and after he reveals to her that he is having an affair, she orders her two strapping sons to teach Ellis a lesson. The sons are nice-guy Luke Wilson and edgy Jake Busey. They are both pilots for the National Guard, which, because it is a movie, allows them to take Cobra helicopters out for a spin whenever they feel like it.

Our good cop, bad cop brothers manage to frighten their step-father Ellis into a fatal heart attack. But Busey is afraid that workers at the hamburger joint witnessed the nearby and unauthorized military operation, so he pressures Wilson into taking an uncover job at the burger joint.

Wilson promptly meets the pregnant Barrymore, and the two become an item. When she also shows up at Ellis' funeral, he realizes that she was the mistress of Ellis.

Meanwhile, the presumably psychotic O'Hara is not satisfied with Ellis' demise. She also wants the mistress killed, but must first learn her identity. Wilson attempts to protect the lovestruck Barrymore and her love child from his mother and Busey, who is determined to fulfill his manipulative mother's murderous whims.

Barrymore's "trailer trash" redneck parents are Shelley Duvall and Lanny Flaherty. Daryl Mitchell is Wilson's co-worker at the burger joint, while Kim Robillard is its owner.

How others will see it. Home Fries drew mixed reviews at best, and was a box office disappointment. Home Fries was director Dean Pariot's first feature film. He had greater success the next year with another outlandish comedy, Galaxy Quest. Writer Vince Gilligan has a stronger resume, in terms of popular acclaim, with the television series "The X-Files" and "Breaking Bad".

Today at imdb.com, Home Fries has a so-so user vote total of 7K, and a mediocre user rating of 5.0. Women grade it higher than do men, 5.2 versus 4.8. Nonetheless, user reviews at imdb tend to be favorable. The romantic couple are cute, and the situations and screenplay can be amusing.

The relative failure of the movie has to do with audience expectations. A 1998 movie starring Drew Barrymore is expected to be a romantic comedy, instead of a dark comedy featuring murder plots and redneck stereotypes.

How I felt about it. Lanny Flaherty is too over the top, as is Busey's obsession with pleasing his mother. We still wonder why Barrymore had an affair with a married man twice her age, and the romance between Wilson and Barrymore progresses too quickly. The happy ending appears forced. The National Guard should keep better tabs on their Cobra helicopters.

But the criminally insane O'Hara is great fun, Wilson and Barrymore are likable, and I had to laugh when the employees at the cigarette factory are shown coughing. The movie is better than it should be, and perhaps director Parisot could have done even better if the story was up to the level of the cast.

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