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(1998) (Drew Barrymore, Luke Wilson) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Extreme Mild Moderate
Mild None Minor None Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Mild Minor Mild Mild

Black/Romantic comedy: A young man falls for an unmarried pregnant woman who may have innocently heard him and his brother scare their stepfather to death.
Sally Jackson (DREW BARRYMORE) works the drive-in window at the local Burger-Matic in some small town. Pregnant from her affair with Henry Lever (CHRIS ELLIS), a man twice her age, Sally is a down to Earth young woman who didn't known Henry was married until after the fact.

One night while driving home from the burger joint, Henry encounters a military attack helicopter piloted by Dorian (LUKE WILSON) and Angus (JAKE BUSEY), his two stepsons. They want to teach him a lesson about fidelity, but when Angus fires a bunch of blanks from the copter's massive guns to scare him, Henry has a heart attack and dies. To complicate matters, they realize too late that someone else heard their radio chatter during the incident, and thus they desperately want to tie up all possible loose ends.

Their mother (CATHERINE O'HARA), who's more concerned with the identity of her late husband's lover than his actual death, tells her boys to cover their tracks, but also to find the other woman. Identifying the possible aural witnesses as the workers wearing radio headsets at the Burger-Matic, Angus convinces Dorian to get a job there, infiltrate the workers, and figure out if they heard enough to be possible trouble.

The only problem is, Dorian starts to fall for Sally, thus complicating the matter when he also learns that she was his stepfather's lover. With their mother turning up the heat for results, Dorian must work out his feelings toward her, while doing what he can to prevent the homicidal Angus from learning the truth about Sally and their late stepfather.

If they're fans of Barrymore, or hear that this film's script was written by one of the writers for TV's "The X-Files," they may want to.
For thematic elements and some sexual humor.
  • DREW BARRYMORE plays a young woman who got pregnant by a man twice her age, but is otherwise a sweat, amiable person.
  • LUKE WILSON plays the guy who falls for her while attempting to see if she knows anything about him and his brother scaring their stepfather to death, while also having to deal with his deranged mother and brother.
  • JAKE BUSEY plays that deranged brother who has no problems wanting to kill people if it makes his momma happy.
  • CATHERINE O'HARA plays their deranged mother who partially caused her husband's death and wants her boys to take care of the woman (Sally) with whom he was having an affair.


    OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
    In what has to the first -- and hopefully last -- use of an Army helicopter as the "smoking gun" in this sort of genre, "Home Fries" is a dismal, poorly executed and decidedly unfunny stab at black comedy. Although it has enough quirky charm to make it bearable to sit through, the fact that it's neither outrageous nor hilarious will doom this film to a quick box office death and subsequent hasty trip to the video stores.

    Working from a ten-year-old script by current "The X-Files" TV scribe, Vince Gilligan, freshman director Dean Parisot has the necessary ingredients for such a macabre film. An initial accidental murder, several oddball characters with no problems regarding killing people, and a slight twist or two show signs of what may follow. It's quite obvious, however, that Parisot doesn't have the necessary cinematic culinary experience for cooking up a concoction like this.

    While the whole helicopter bit (that, not surprisingly, bookends the film's start and conclusion) is presumably present to "jazz up" the proceedings, it does nothing but horribly clash with the rest of the story and its "down home" feel. The tactic of scaring the stepfather back into fidelity could have been handled in any number of ways that would have worked much better with the rest of the story.

    To make matters worse, you never buy into the notion that either of these two simpletons would qualify to fly the military choppers, let alone "borrow" them whenever they seemingly want. While Mr. Gump may have exposed the virtues of "Stupid is as stupid does," the brothers' collective low mental functioning not only proves to be unfunny, but further exemplifies the fact that they'd never be allowed to operate multimillion dollar pieces of military equipment.

    In addition, the whole bit about having Dorian getting a job flipping burgers so that he can infiltrate the workers -- and in particular, Sally -- is half baked at best and poorly executed overall. Of course, it's designed so that he'll fall for her -- pregnancy and all, and isn't much of a surprise to anyone who's seen a movie before -- which will then be complicated by the matter of his homicidal brother wanting to kill her for their momma.

    While there's some comic potential there -- albeit not in huge quantities -- the "fun" of such a predicament never arrives, what's follows is too predictable, and the whole thing is executed so poorly that you'll begin to ponder why the story wasn't left sitting on the shelf for another decade.

    In particular, the film's handling of its black comedy elements -- namely the brothers accidentally scaring their stepfather to death and their subsequent coverup efforts -- is terribly mishandled. While black comedy always precariously balances on the fine line of humorous outrageousness and bad taste, this film missteps right from the beginning and suffers from being neither funny nor outrageous.

    Forgetting for a moment the odd use of the helicopter to scare their stepfather, the "fun" from such a scene would arise from the brothers panicking over their accidentally causing his fatal heart attack and their subsequent comic efforts to cover their tracks and eliminate all evidence of their misdoing.

    While the story marginally proceeds along those lines, the brothers' nonchalant reaction to their stepfather's death shortchanges the film's comic possibilities. Instead of them scrambling to cover their butts, the film begins to segue into a black comedy/romantic comedy hybrid with the brother's mother serving as something akin to Ma Barker ordering her hapless sons to do her dirty work. Although all of that may have worked if structured and handled appropriately, it's severely botched here and the result is a hapless film that neither fits nor succeeds in any or all genres.

    It also suffers from many moments presumably structured to be funny -- Dorian dressed up in the Burger-Matic spaceman mascot outfit -- that aren't, and too many bits of coincidence -- the military helicopters just happen to broadcast on the same radio frequency as the burger joint's wireless headsets -- that can't be overcome by suspension of disbelief. A few minor adjustments to the script here and there would have remedied many of the film's problems, but alas, we're stuck with what's been delivered.

    The performances -- somewhat suited for a film like this -- range from decent to obviously overzealous acting. Drew Barrymore ("Ever After," "The Wedding Singer") is charming and filled with enough watered down exuberance to keep the film from falling flat on its face. Unfortunately, the chemistry between her and Luke Wilson ("Scream 2") -- who often emotes nothing but an anguished look throughout the film -- never works and thus we don't care about them as a would-be couple.

    Faring somewhat better -- for a black comedy -- are Catherine O'Hara and Jake Busey. O'Hara (the mother in the "Home Alone" flicks) appropriately plays her wacked out mother character with outrageous zeal, while Busey ("Contact" "The Frighteners") -- yes, Gary's near look alike son -- is firmly establishing himself as cinema's new leading man for playing oddball characters.

    It's too bad the film doesn't carry the same enthusiasm that those two performers exude. Listless, and never certain what genre in which in wants to fall, "Home Fries" lacks the spark or creativity to succeed no matter how one looks at it. We give this film -- a misguided hybrid that attempts to mix romance and black comedy -- a 2 out of 10.

    Here's a brief look at the content found in this PG-13 rated film. Somewhat falling into the black comedy genre, the film contains an "appropriately" flippant attitude toward a character's accidental death and other attempted violence (although nothing else is carried through to a fatal end).

    Profanity consists of several uses of the "s" and other words, and the film's main character is pregnant from an unseen affair with a married man more than twice her age (she claims not to have known he was married at the time). A few mild sexually related comments also occur.

    Beyond a drunk character briefly holding some people hostage with a shotgun (somewhat played for comic effect), the rest of the categories don't have much in the way of major objectionable material. Even so, and should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for you or anyone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • Sally's father enters the Burger-Matic, apparently drunk and with a shotgun.
  • Angus holds what may be a beer (but couldn't be identified).
  • Sally's father gives Dorian the beer he's been drinking.
  • None.
  • Obviously Henry had both for having an affair with Sally, who's easily half his age, and for getting her pregnant (she says that she didn't know he was married until after the fact).
  • Granted, the film is meant to be a black comedy, but Angus, his mother, and to some extent Dorian have both for not really carrying that they scared Henry to death, and for plotting to kill the other woman, whomever they think she may be, and doing so without any remorse.
  • A military attack helicopter chases Henry off the road and through a field and seemingly appears ready to fire its guns at him.
  • A man, who turns out to be Sally's drunk father, enters the burger joint and briefly holds everyone hostage at gunpoint.
  • Angus (in his helicopter) chases Dorian and Sally (in his truck and also with his mother) and then threatens to shoot them with the copter's machine guns.
  • Military attack helicopter/Handgun/Shotgun/Compressed gas: Used to threaten or attempt to kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Angus gives Dorian a handgun to take inside the Burger-Matic in case there's any trouble.
  • Phrases: "Sorry ass," "Eat me," "Whore," "Bastard," "Rat bastard" and "Screwed" (nonsexual).
  • Sally is an unmarried and pregnant young woman with no remorse over getting that way from a brief fling with a man more than twice her age.
  • Dorian places a bullet into a hamburger patty on the grill. Of course it goes off and ricochets around the room, something some kids may want to try to imitate.
  • Angus repeatedly flicks Dorian on the ear.
  • Angus runs a hose into a woman's trailer and pumps some sort of gas through it, hoping to asphyxiate her.
  • None.
  • A few instances of dramatic or comically laced suspense music occur.
  • None.
  • At least 8 "s" words, 10 damns, 7 hells, 4 asses, 2 craps, and 5 uses of "G-damn" and 1 use each of "Swear to God" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Although the act took place before the story begins, Henry got Sally pregnant during one of their encounters.
  • After refusing Henry's request for her to come along with him, Sally tells him, "All you want to do is poke dents in my baby's head" (referring to them having sex while she's pregnant).
  • The boys' mother finds a box of "rainbow" condoms in her late husband's belongings. Seeing that the box is unopened and stating that the condoms weren't for her "...since I never felt any rainbows," she adds, "I can only assume that whore of his preferred things a la natural."
  • A Lamaze instructor tells Sally while practicing childbirth, "You didn't get pregnant with your legs together, you won't have a baby that way."
  • Sally's mother smokes a few times, the brothers' mother smokes once, and some miscellaneous characters smoke or prepare to smoke.
  • The boys' mother feigns grief upon hearing of her husband's death, but neither she nor the boys feel any remorse or grief.
  • The film's flippant use of violence and death for (attempted) humor.
  • That Drew Barrymore's character is pregnant after having an affair with a married man at least twice her age.
  • Angus and Dorian accidentally scare their stepfather to death when they fire blanks at him from their military attack helicopter that's chased him around at night.
  • Sally's drunk father enters the burger joint and briefly holds everyone hostage with his shotgun. After Dorian's lone bullet shoots off through the room (after he placed it in a hamburger on the grill), he rushes out, kicks the man in the head and then holds the shotgun (which turns out to be empty) on him.
  • Angus runs a hose up into a woman's trailer, turns on the gas attached to it, and hopes to kill her by carbon monoxide (or similar) poisoning. The woman does hit the floor, as does Dorian who tries to save her, but in the end everyone's okay.
  • The brothers briefly struggle after one of them does the same with their mother.
  • Dorian, thinking that Angus has done something to kill Sally and her family, knocks or violently turns things over while trying to find any potential lethal evidence.
  • Angus fires the helicopter's machine guns at Dorian and Sally and then alternates aiming them at those two and his mother.

  • Reviewed November 13, 1998 / Posted on November 25, 1998

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