Intermission: 8 Things

Hey look, yet another interruption! I’m never going to get through this season, am I?

But I figured I needed to do a couple of things I promised.

Thing One

First off, Larryoke!  Remember Larryoke? Now it’s back in blog form haha I’m the first to make this joke.  I think I’ve gotten some new readers since then (hello!) so I should explain.

When I got to the end of season 4 (the “halfway” point), me and my buddies celebrated by watching a handful of Perfect Strangers via a livestream event. The episodes were interspersed with goodies such as:

  • trailers for films that Mark and Bronson were in
  • clips of Bronson in his film roles up through early 1989
  • 3 minutes straight of Bronson flexing his butt
  • haha I guess that’s 3 minutes GAY of Bronson flexing his butt
  • a video reference to Earthbound that probably seemed out place
  • Perfect Strangers-themed song parodies, performed karaoke-style

It’s these last two that I wanted to make sure were available to enjoy for anyone who wasn’t able to make it to the livestream.  Here they are!  My singing voice is terrible, but everyone else’s is great! Many thanks to Adam, Vivian, Sarah, Philip, and Professor D.

And lastly, thank you to the guy who comments on each and every video I post on YouTube.  I can’t possibly imagine you had any idea what these were about, but you liked them all anyway.

Thing Two

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Phil and I went on a roadtrip (planes are roads!) to lovely Parsippany, New Jersey to see the Cousins in the flesh at the Chiller Theatre Expo. The picture above is an artist rendering of the trip. Because we are both bespectacled and bebearded men in our 30s, there’s no telling which of us is which.

Why were Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot reuniting at a horror convention in New Jersey, of all places?  Who the hell knows!  I’m guessing that it’s because both of them are on the East Coast, and whoever was in charge of seeking out guests was clever enough to sense some sort of opportunity. (And, hey, I take 100% of the credit for any bump in any recent popularity of the show.)

Let me describe the Chiller Theatre Expo by talking for a moment about comic conventions in general.  My very first convention was DragonCon in 1995, in Atlanta.  It was exactly what you’d expect from a “comic” convention.  My dad took me, and I got a few comics (Disgusting Comics #2, Major Inapak: Space Ace, and MAD Magazine #265 are the ones that instantly come to mind).  In my memory, the con was almost entirely vendors with rows of longboxes full of back issues, comic book artists with their giant sheets of original page art. I’m sure there were attendees in cosplay, but they don’t stick out in my mind.

The last few cons I’ve been to–and what I hear about all the others bears this out–are almost entirely pop-culture conventions.  At the large ones (say, Comicpalooza in Houston, or the New York Comic Con) the big focusses are whatever upcoming movies feature superheroes or pop culture mainstays like Transformers* or whatever. Hell, I went to Comicpalooza in 2015 and saw some of the Rocky Horror Picture Show cast on a panel. You’re far more likely to see someone with a towering wall of their own artwork (depicting characters they don’t own) than you are to meet an independent comics artist like *ahem* yours truly. Rows of longboxes are a rarity. Don’t get me started on those shitty Funko toys, neither.

In fact, Mile High Comics–probably the largest brick-and-mortar comics retailer in the United States, just announced that they won’t be at the San Diego Comic Con, ending their presence there after 44 years. Rising costs of floorspace coupled with the fact that many convention attendees don’t even make it into the convention hall because of all of the events nearby (plus some bad PR on SDCC’s part) have made it unprofitable for Mile High Comics to even make the trip out there.

I say all that to say this: the Chiller Theatre Expo is by far the most focussed convention I’ve been to in terms of fandom.  The vast majority of the vendors there are selling horror memorabilia.  Sure, some of them have general “vintage” movie and TV stuff too, but the focus is clearly horror.  I bought a horror movie for a friend, some horror postcards for myself, and I bought Phil the most terrifying Playboy centerfold ever. I also want to give respect where respect is due. At least from what I can tell, it’s the horror fandom that has birthed a number of efforts to preserve the history of low-budget film. For decades, the majority of 70s and 80s low-budget horror films only got a VHS release, and that was it. Hardcore fans had to track down copies of limited releases of horror titles, hitting up yard sales and going-out-of-business rental stores. (I strongly recommend the documentary Adjust Your Tracking if you want to learn more.) But at the Chiller Theatre Expo there were at least five different booths offering DVD copies (of VHS transfers) of these films, with not much overlap among them.  The Expo was also the first I’d heard of a company called Vinegar Syndrome, whose business is to restore and re-release such films.

Yes, I realize this blog is called Perfect Strangers Reviewed. I’m telling you my experience of the convention. Back off.

So, yeah, there was a weird mix of celebrities there. Again, the general focus was horror, even if the actors had only been in one or two horror movies. They had most of the cast of the film Fright Night, George Hamilton was there, Michael Marona and Danny Tamberelli from The Adventures of Pete & Pete (I didn’t realize until I was talking to them how important it had been for young Casey to see other boys with red hair on television), I forget who all else.  I think the main thing they all had in common was being C-list actors, with a slight trend toward mostly being in media that preceded my birth.

Phil and I went to the Paramus Mall while we were there, and there happened to be a Lego store. Phil had the idea to make custom minifigures of the cousins, and we spent a solid half-hour digging in bins alongside children trying to find the right hair and clothing for the cousins.  Larry got an afro, a splattered jumpsuit (we hoped it might read as being from “Games People Play”), and a camera; Balki a bindle and a vest; Mary Anne (Sagittarius) an exercise outfit. In fact, hold on a sec–

*drives to the mall real quick*

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This is close. No camera for Larry, I think Balki had different hair, and Mary Anne had a bone. Jennifer is on the packaging.

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The first thing I did when we got to Mark and Bronson’s table was to give Mark the minifigures (to help your imagination: the Lego store gives you a plastic box to put them in).  He said something along the lines of “that’s nice” and handed it back.  I realized at that point that this must be his first convention appearance ever, and somehow I was the first fan to give him a gift. (I gave it back to him and clarified.)

Otherwise, I completely forgot everything I was going to say.  I become a shaky baby deer like that at conventions. I managed to get out that I had come to the convention solely to see them, and Mark Linn-Baker shook my hand. I had brought VHS copies of both Me & Him and After Hours (both movies had starred Griffin Dunne), but because of the prices they were asking for signatures, I only got Mark to sign Me & Him.  He commented that it had been a nice month in Munich.  There’s some movie trivia for you, Mark Linn-Baker fans!  He only had to do the voice of Griffin Dunne’s penis, but they actually flew him out for the filming.

I had intended to ask Bronson whatever happened with the comedy album he had recorded, but I forgot. He shook my hand and asked about my ancestry (the red hair, remember), and then he immediately went back to playing, idunno, Angry Birds or whatever.

The cousins had a number of promotional photos there. I didn’t buy any because I wanted to have my photograph taken with them. While in line for the photo, I overheard someone talking about being a member of the Perfect Strangers Facebook group, so I introduced myself (if you’re reading, hi! you’ll see in a minute why I’m not mentioning your name).  Phil was there with me in line, and when it came time for me to get my picture taken, they let him join in (for free! I had to pay money and didn’t even get to touch Bronson). Mark even recognized me: I think he said something like “there he is”, which could just be a catchall way of making people think you recognize them, but I certainly felt loved.

We ended up going back to the Expo the next day to see the cousins again and hang out with our new friend. I gave both Mark and Bronson the address of my review blog and said I would love to interview them some day. I also held our friend’s phone so they could get footage of them talking to the cousins one last time.

I have to tell you two things at this point. One is that, leading up to the Expo, Bronson Pinchot had been posting short videos of him in character as Balki advertising the event.

The second is that our new friend is the most hardcore Perfect Strangers fan I’ve ever met, which is surprising given that they are even younger than I am. Perfect Strangers came into their life at a very trying time, and they’ve seen the whole run of the show multiple times.  They talked to the cousins all three days of the Expo.  By the third day, Mark and Bronson recognized them and greeted them warmly.

When they gave me their phone to record them, they told me that they really hoped that Bronson would do the accent and his catchphrase.  When I could tell that they were almost done talking with the cousins, I got the sense they weren’t going to ask for the catchphrase. So I piped up and asked if he would.  Bronson deflected the question to Mark, who happily rattled off an “Oh my lord”, but refused to do the accent at all. He said he was feeling “grouchy” that day.

I get that doing a convention is its own type of marathon. And I’m guessing Bronson decided for himself beforehand that he wouldn’t do the accent. Because if you do it for one person, you’ll have to do it for another, and another, etc. But…

It was the last day of the Expo. And certainly he could tell that he was with a superfan.  Maybe it was the fact that he was being recorded in a situation where he couldn’t prepare himself, as he’d done on YouTube leading up to the Expo. Couldn’t he have, though, just once? And not look like an ass on video?

Oh, wait. Nevermind.

Things Three through Eight

They’re releasing the rest of the seasons of Perfect Strangers on DVD. That’s right, you heard right, Warner Bros.** is going to release seasons 3-8 through their manufacture-on-demand program.

Oh God, I take it back.  I have nothing to do with any recent upswing in Perfect Strangers‘s popularity.

My first thought was “dammit, there goes one of my five jokes”.  But then again, it’s not a brick-and-mortar release, or even necessarily through sites like Amazon.com, which to me says that this is the only way Warner can maximize their profits. It’s still a possibility that they haven’t gotten the music rights.  In most cases, they could cut out the parts where Balki sings.  There are only two songs I can think of off the top of my head where cutting them would significantly impact a scene: “Proud Mary” from the camping episode and “Never Gonna Give You Up” from the journalism class episode.

*sigh*

Yes, I’m going to buy each season of the DVDs. No, I’m not going to go back and get better screengrabs for what I’ve already reviewed. Not only does this blog review Perfect Strangers, but it’s also a record of a particular point in time where only the first two seasons were on DVD, and where for awhile only the METV recordings were available for everything else, and where for another while original airings could be viewed. My screengrabs will be inconsistent overall, but I’m fine with that.

Also *ahem* if y’all want to buy me the DVDs when they come out, I won’t say no.

In fact, especially if Warner didn’t get all the music rights, I may have to stick with the original airings. I kind of want to keep seeing that filthy rat with the hammer, too. Kind of hope he dies at the end of season 5.

Anyway, I somehow managed to wring 2,200 words out of a post about some YouTube videos, a photograph, and DVDs that aren’t out yet.

Join me next week for “Almost Live from Chicago”!

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Boner count: Casey (0); Phil (1–it was when he was talking to Bronson; bet he thought I wouldn’t notice)

*GoBots came first. Fight me.

**I hope the DVDs say “Warner Cousins” instead, out of respect

Second Sight (1989)

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Well, here it finally is, folks: Second Sight, ostensibly a vehicle for Bronson Pinchot.  It was his first feature film appearance since After Hours, when he played a character who didn’t know how to use a computer.  As we’ve seen already by looking at reportage on Perfect Strangers, this film was meant to have come out well before its release date of November 3, 1989.  Wikipedia cites the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike as the reason for a delay in the film’s production (it also mentions the strike “led to problems with… the cast” and, uh, citation needed, guys).  Wikipedia also mentions that when Bronson interviewed psychics for his role, he was focussed on one guy’s shoes, which I’m 100% sure is true.

To recap what we’ve heard before about it: it was directed by Joel Zwick, who had directed all but one PS episode at that point; it had a small enough budget that they couldn’t afford extra ice cream; and that the actors saved the script.  Given that credit for the script goes (partially) to Tom Schulman, I think it’s worth spending a moment thinking about the writing.  Tom Schulman (I’ve just learned) also wrote the scripts for Dead Poets Society and What About Bob? and is responsible for turning the original script for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids into a comedy.  So guy had some chops.  Second Sight has two credited writers, however.  Looking at Tom Schulman’s Wikipedia page, it’s mentioned that he sold his scripts for both Second Sight and Dead Poets Society on the same day, indicating that he wrote the original draft of the script alone.  The Writers Guild strike occurred during the spring and summer of 1988–in fact, the two pieces of television coverage of Second Sight that I looked at aired during that time period.  It probably is safe to say that if anyone changed some dialogue then, it was likely the actors.  Where the second writer of Second Sight–Patricia Resnick–comes in, I don’t know.  For what it’s worth, she co-wrote 9 to 5.

So why am I dedicating a whole blog post to what is almost certainly going to be a trainwreck?  Why not just dump this into a “How I spent my summer vacation” post?  Mainly it’s because this has been hyped up to now as a vehicle for Bronson.  I want to see how much our boy has learned from doing the work of television acting for years.  But partially it’s the buildup that was a result of the prolonged production schedule. It feels like we’ve been seeing mentions of its imminent arrival forever now.  Plus, it was released on November 3, the same night as the episode “Poetry in Motion”, so now seems like as good a time as any.  Lastly, spoiler: it is a trainwreck. Like, what, did you think that something Bronson Pinchot starred in was going to be good? The hell’s wrong with you?

Also, special note: the poster lies. There is no dog in this movie.

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The movie starts out with Bronson coming out of the sewer, and you think he’s floating, and then the joke is that he’s not floating.  Make your own career/back alley abortion joke here, y’all.

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And then they go back in the sewer. This scene has no impact on the rest of the movie.

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Hey, look, it’s an eye, because

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whatever

Opening song: “Do You Believe in Magic?” which is absolutely and 100% a song about the type of magic in this movie, and not at ALL a song about how the effect of music on the human psyche often seems delightfully inexplicable if you don’t know neuroscience.  It’s not even the original by The Lovin’ Spoonful, so who cares.

Anyway, here we are at a crime scene, a perfect opportunity to introduce us to the main characters of the movie.  And here they are, crawling out of an air vent!

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No explanation whatsoever is given for this.  Evidently, some piece of art has been stolen from this swank place, and the insurance company called in the Second Sight Detective Agency.  Why an insurance company would do this, or how they got here as quickly as the police, is also not explained.  Anyway, Wills (John Larroquette) introduces Lieutenant Manoogian to Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. (Stuart Pankin) and Bobby McGee (Bronson Pinchot).  Just to give you a benchmark for humor in this movie: the writers think that naming a character Bobby McGee is funny.

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Bobby clambers up on the plinth that the sculpture was stolen from.  We learn that Bobby must contact his spiritual guide–Murray–who will tell him what happened to the sculpture.  Bobby does something never before seen on TV or Film, and begins speaking in Myposian tongues, which summons Murray, who does not speak in tongues.  Murray is an old dead New Yorker, which allows Bronson a chance to show off how “good” he is at doing “characters”.  Murray says that the thief is in the room.

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There’s a decent bit here where most of the characters are standing in a semi-circle and Bobby leans and pivots as though, through some magnetism, he’s going to land on the thief.  Or, well, it would have been a decent bit if it wasn’t interrupted by Bronson shake-walking around the room for a minute, and then going back to leaning before picking the thief.

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This move’s called the Dipping Bird!

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Then Bobby runs around launching other sculptures from their podia, making everyone run around and catch them. Wills doesn’t catch one. For those of you still acclimating to this brand of humor, that’s a joke. Bobby finds the missing statue.

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Later, In a diner, Bobby plays with the table jukebox, in front of about 8 empty plates.  When he points at the jukebox, it makes robot noises. I really have to wonder how Bronson–formerly a self-conscious overweight teenager–felt about jokes about overeating.  Also, jeez, what was it with 80s movies and organic lifeforms evincing technological abilities? LOOKIN’ AT  YOU, ET.

We’re tidily given some exposition and characterization here.  Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. functions as Bobby’s caretaker/handler; Bobby gets physically drained from doing psychic stuff; Wills has a habit of trying to use Bobby for personal gain, which Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. does not approve of. (Here, Wills gets Bobby to tell him personal details of a woman in the diner so that he can hit on her.)  And lastly, that the Second Sight Detective Agency are down on their luck, having made only $11.35 from the previous night’s exploits.  Okay, great!  Now that that’s out of the way, we can get to telling the story of whatever big case they’re supposed to solve.

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Later, at somewhere else, I guess it’s their office, Bobby is running around in some sort of metal helmet with a bunch of wires attached.  I’ve never seen one of these before

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so I’m not sure if it has a proper name. Bobby is running from Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D., who is trying to put a clamp on his nipple. Then Bobby begs to have a clamp put on his nipple, so what the fuck.

Wills and Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. talk about how Bobby needs small cases because that’s all he can “handle” right now. Meanwhile, out in the lobby, Bobby is putting on dark clothes to block out being able to sense what they are talking about. As it turns out, there is more to learn about Bobby’s powers.  He’s highly receptive, meaning he can overhear thoughts and feel when someone pretends to choke him.  And because of this, he gets worn out easily.  Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D., mentions that there’s a small case–a car being dented by another car–that would be perfect for Bobby.

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I’m getting bored with this already.

Those of you who have seen Ghostbusters may be wondering where the female receptionist or the working-class black person are. They’ve been combined into one character, who you see for maybe 20 seconds:

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Later, at the home of Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D., and his wife, Mrs. Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D., they and Wills watch a news report about the Pope’s funeral.  What we learn from this scene is that the Picketts are Bobby’s caretakers (he lives with them); that both Wills and Priscilla Pickett use Bobby for personal gain (baseball scores, contests, the lottery); and that Bobby eats a lot.

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Then a sleeping Bobby tries to have sex with Priscilla. Why? Scenes have to end on “jokes”, remember?

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The next day at the office, Sister Elizabeth and a woman named Maria Soledad come in. Bobby comes in and explains what happened: Maria’s car got rear-ended and the cost of repair–$3,000–is more than she can afford.  I would take some time to talk about how a Catholic would likely never seek out the advice of a psychic, and maybe even surmise that it’s excused through “Maria Soledad”, an obvious cipher representing the mix of traditional spiritual practices and Catholicism in Latino cultures.  But hey, the Pope just died, and it’s common knowledge that “anything goes” in the small period of time between popes.

Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. explains to us here the full extent of Bobby’s powers.

Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D.: Bobby combines the talents of a deep trans-channeler, an empath, and a psychometrist.

I hate to spoil things for you, but that line just about sums up Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D.’s character.  There are a lot of character actors who, for me, are special treats whenever they show up.  Guys like Joe Flaherty, Russ Tamblyn, Paul Wilson, and here, Stuart Pankin.  There’s a good chance you’ve seen him before, or at least heard his voice: he played Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs.  Pankin’s a funny guy!  But here, his only purpose is to explain and apologize for Bobby McGee, and sometimes to give Bobby McGee candy (but we’ll get to that). We don’t get any sort of story about how he discovered Bobby, or what he means to Bobby, or even an argument with his wife about her abuse of Bobby’s powers.  His character–much like Mark Linn-Baker’s Larry, at times–is meant to blend into the background until it’s time to explain why Bobby’s acting weird in any given scene.

It’s unfortunate that Pankin is underused in this movie, because there is a decent core dynamic between our three male leads.  Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. is the character dedicated to parascience (*cough* Egon *cough*), and is protective of his new object of study. Wills deeply hates being in this business at all (he’s a former police detective), and is impatient with everything except money and a second sight at women’s underwear.  Bobby is alternately too overwhelmed or out of it to really comprehend that the other two are both using him.  And if you’re hoping that the movie explores that last part, NOPE.

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Instead, the women leave (Joel Zwick’s signature style on display), and Bobby has convulsions and starts talking as Murray, telling Wills to leave the nun alone. The height of snappy dialogue for this movie is reached when Bobby/Murray says “None of that nun!”

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Then Murray zaps Wills, resulting in a trip to the hospital.

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(Useless scene with a “joke” about Bobby being an empath on the wrong side of the body.)

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Then we meet the group of three criminals who were behind denting Maria’s car. They make some vague comments about another dry run past the church, and how they’re going to kidnap someone.  What makes this scene really not work is how we only see these guys from behind until there’s a terrible joke. The “joke” is that anytime anyone says “queen”, no matter what the context is (here, playing cards), someone will assume they are having their sexuality questioned. I want to make sure you realize that I’m not overstating this. In most 80s movies, there’s at least, say, a line of dialogue that could logically be followed by “Who’re you calling a queen?” Here, they’re playing cards.

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Then the They-Really-Want-You-to-Think-They’re-Like-The-Ghostbusters drive by in a Checker Marathon*.  While on the way to the church, we learn that Wills has problems with commitment because the police chief (his former boss) fucked his wife.  Speaking of sex… we’re told that Bobby has not developed the romantic or physical aspects of his person, much less integrated them into his whole self… so he’s sexless… and he’s not up on social codes or mores… Bronson sure has range, huh?

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At the church, Bobby has a vision about Cardinal O’Hara’s hemorrhoids.  Then he tackles the Cardinal and lies on his back.  Movie… *tch*… you don’t really want me making gay jokes here, do you?

Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. explains what Bobby is doing and gives him candy to make him stop.

Wwwwwhat the fuck was the point of that scene? They go to the church and meet the Cardinal and nothing else is said other than to enforce the fact that Bobby’s psychic abilities are erratic.  Wwwwwhy did they need to meet the Cardinal to solve the case of who hit Maria’s car? Wwwwwwhy did they even go outside?

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Here’s another one of those types of scenes I talked about way back in “Babes in Babylon”, where a movie/show tries to compare itself to earlier, funnier media.  This time it’s the Three Stooges that Wills watches while Bobby sleeps.  Bobby, asleep, changes the channels whenever he turns over.

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Oh my Lord, Wills changes the channel to a Perfect Strangers re-run, the one where they snowplowed their girlfriends or whatever. Wills moves Bobby around until he gets the baseball game.

Alright movie, I guess you do want me to make sex jokes.

*ahem*

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Wills tries to investigate Bobby’s third eye.

Back in the office, Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. updates Wills on Bobby’s condition and

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y’know what, movie? WE GET IT

Bobby can’t control his shit. He can’t contact Murray. Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. can’t predict it. We’re 28 minutes into an 84-minute film and rather than explain anything about the crime they’re supposed to be solving, we’ve spent 20 minutes on discussion of how Bobby has no psychic off switch and how Wills is an asshole to Bobby and bets on baseball games.

Seriously, there’s a bit of dialogue that goes almost like this: “I can’t predict what Bobby might do, and if we work him too hard, there’s no telling what could he could do!”

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Hey, look, another scene where Mrs. Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. exploits Bobby’s skill to get lottery numbers.  (Another turkey of a scene, that’s the best I can do for a “joke” now, please send help.) She confesses her addiction to her husband, Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D.  Then Bobby wakes up and runs out of the room gibbering.  Perhaps in his quest to find the right numbers, his mind decided on #2.

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Bobby wakes up Wills and says that Murray–that’s right, you heard right, the same Murray who a few scenes back said to stay away from the nun–tells them to go out right now and they’ll catch the car-denters.  Do any of these guys realize the police can do analysis on paint left behind from the other car?

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And then someone hits Wills’s car! No one takes the license plate number down.  I *guess* what’s supposed to have happened here is that Bobby’s premonition that they would run into the criminals was actually a premonition that they would get run into. I shouldn’t have to guess.

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Now they’re in a restaurant and Bobby talks some probably-Chinese to a waiter.

One of the two writers–or maybe an actor–realized that the movie was going nowhere at this point tries an experiment.  I’ve seen this kind of experiment handled well, and I’ve seen it collapse catastrophically.  It’s a huge gamble but I’m proud to see the ambition here: the woman talks.

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She asks about Murray, the one named male not there, because what else is there to talk about if they’re not going to pursue the story about the criminals?

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Murray shows up and we learn that Sister Elizabeth used to be Murray’s girlfriend before he died.  He got hit by a truck (one of three types of crime that happen in this city) while going out to get her some rum raisin ice cream.

Murray is upset and picks up the table and sets it down, and Wills tells Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D., to give him some Goobers. When I was a kid, “goober” was a slang word for penis that my dad used.

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Bronson lives out his dream part: an appearance on The Flying Nun. He psychically summons a big pot of ice cream from the restaurant’s kitchen while Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. shoves goobers in his mouth (heh).

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Let me pause here and check in on how the movie is doing.  The first third has been fairly unbalanced.  We’ve gotten repeated explanations of Bobby’s powers, coupled with multiple warnings about how unpredictable he is. On the other hand, some parts of the plot (Wills’s former life as a police officer; an imminent kidnapping) are only barely established.  I don’t mind when stories are constructed this way.  You have to have a great memory if you’re going to read any comics written by Grant Morrison; and when it comes to television, I’d have to cite fourth-season Farscape for representing the end of the spectrum where plot points get one whole sentence at most.  But that kind of writing in a feature film, one that’s marketed towards… let’s say families, is less excusable.

The middle third, I think, is where the effects of the Writers Guild Strike really start to show. Instead of doing anything to advance the main plot, the movie is suddenly taken over with a romance story. It seems that Wills and Sister Elizabeth have been secretly falling in love with each other. Not that we’d know this from their interactions–we’re simply told by Bobby, who of course is never wrong.  It’s reiterated that Sister Elizabeth previously had a relationship with Murray, but Murray’s jealousy prevents the detectives from using him to find the criminals.

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There almost seems to be an awareness of the problems of storytelling and audience engagement, because Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D., explains what’s going on to a black guy and the black guy doesn’t care.

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But then, suddenly, forget that, because now they’re with Maria (remember Maria? This is a story about Maria) trying to recreate the circumstances of the accident.

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Bobby starts talking in a blaccent and takes over driving the car while Wills is on the hood for some reason I cannot remember and refuse to care about.   Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. pops out of the window to tell Wills that he has to feed Bobby Goobers and it literally feels like he’s talking directly to the audience because certainly Wills knows this, right?

Preston spills Goobers all over the road.

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Bobby drives the car with his mind while Wills lies on the hood and Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” plays.  Meanwhile, off-camera, Joel Zwick experiences multiple orgasms because this would have been the ultimate Perfect Strangers scene.

Bobby snaps out of his psychic state, freaks out because he doesn’t know how to drive, and then crashes into the criminals’ hideout. You can’t even make the case that that’s where Bobby (Murray?) was leading them. It’s simply use of spectacle, motion and sound to cover up that the plot is accidentally being moved along.  The seams are showing here.

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After a brief psychokinetic scuffle, the three guys who have done nothing worse than cause a fender bender run away in their car.

In a brief but crucial scene, they all walk on a bridge and Bobby heals Wills’s hip. Believe in the power of re-writes, folks.

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Then the discount Bob Saget shows up as an FBI special investigator and tells the chief of police and Manoogian (remember Manoogian?) he’s taking over the O’Hara case.

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The O’Hara case, by the way, is that Cardinal O’Hara and Maria Soledad were kidnapped.  It’s perfectly okay to wait until the halfway point of a story to reveal what the real stakes are, and Second Sight does a decent job of dropping hints in the first act (the Pope died, and O’Hara could be in the running). But Second Sight handles this plot switch in the worst way possible: two characters we’ve never seen before talk about the kidnapping of two other characters we’ve barely seen.

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Then the Second Sight guys are back in the diner a third time.  This sure is a movie about three guys who solve crimes through psychic power!  Manoogian shows up to enlist their help, and I can only assume that he does this out of a former working friendship with Wills, because otherwise, why??? It’s certainly not because Manoogian knows that they’ve been in contact with O’Hara. Why do people keep enlisting these fuckwits?

Bobby makes a noise and the little jukebox at the table breaks. Nice to see that there was, at least, one clear story arc for Bobby.

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In the next inside-the-car scene, there’s a bunch of useless dialogue while Bobby plays with a cigarette lighter. What the hell were Bobby’s circumstances before these guys found him? Was he just living on the streets, alternately levitating and eating stray cats?  Anyway, the point of this scene seems to be simply to convey that 1) Wills is happy about the prospect of getting into the newspaper as a hero and 2) BOBBY IS UNPREDICTABLE OKAY

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Also, how long have they been working with Bobby?  It’s only just now that they’re in a clothing store to buy him something other than pajamas.  Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. reminds us that dark clothes will dampen Bobby’s psychic abilities, whatever those are needed to be in the next scene. But as a comics writer myself, I have to praise the inclusion of this scene. I know from hard-won experience that stuff like this is crucial. If, in the next scene, the Second Sight guys show up with Bobby already in a suit, there’s absolutely no way–that is, no time–to convey why he’s in a suit.

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Somehow the FBI special investigator is totally cool with them going into the church. Inside, the Almostbusters are introduced to Bishop O’Linn. He leaves immediately, and then they talk to Father Dominic.

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Bobby takes off his clothes and runs around the church in his boxer shorts.  By the way, where do movie studios find fly-less boxer shorts?

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Well, here’s further proof that the actors saved this script: Bobby, wearing a dress, fondles Cardinal O’Hara’s shoe to find out where he is. He makes orgasm sounds while he holds it.

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Bobby becomes the black guy again. So the Second Sight boys determine that the criminals were “casing the joint” in their first drive by. Like you’d need to case a church.  You just walk in, put a gun in the priest’s back, and walk back out.  Priests are real compliant. Just, you know, trust me on this one.

Bobby says they should head to the chief’s office to look at a ransom note the kidnappers (will) have left.  They want $1,000,000, which was the standard market rate for a popeful (pope hopeful; I am funny) back in 1989.

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Bobby starts acting like he needs to whiz, which Dr. Preston Pickett, Ph.D. describes as Bobby being empathic with the chief needing to whiz.  It’s a funny joke in theory–that a psychic who becomes physically empathic when reading minds would eventually drop in on someone using a toilet. But this is like the guy you hate at work making a decent joke: you’re more likely to practice unlaughter out of habit.

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While Bronson is off-screen, Wills pretends to be Bobby and throws a giant prop fish out of a window. This is because he hates the chief, who fucked his wife and fired him, but of course you remember those well-established details and don’t need me to remind you.

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Wills talks to a doorman named Brian and asks his opinion on the kidnapping. (The doorman is played by Leonard Jackson–whom you might remember from Shining Time Station–and puts more personality into his few lines than Bronson does in the whole running time.)  The magical negro suggests that politics is at play in this kidnapping.  In a matter of seconds, Wills has done “some snooping” and learned that Cardinal O’Hara had been trying to get Bishop O’Linn (fired?) out of the archdiocese.  What was this amazing detective work he did that the police couldn’t have gotten by just questioning Father Dominic and Sister Elizabeth?

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Michael Lombard, who plays O’Linn, actually got the message that this movie was supposed to be a comedy, so he makes the best of his two seconds on screen alone by being bad at golf while Wills questions him.

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blah blah blah they’re in the car again blah blah blah Bobby takes over driving and makes the car swerve

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Then Bobby starts using “psychic sonar” and determines that the bad guys are in the building right next to the car.  That’s convenient. Bobby runs around and makes flashing lights inside a building. Then Bobby says that they weren’t in that building. Like, half their special effects budget was used on this scene, just for Bobby to be wrong. Thank God the actors did so much work to save the script!

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Meanwhile, the bad guys get word from O’Linn that things are getting “too hot” so they decide to bring the Cardinal and Maria to the main bad guy’s mom’s house in Pittsburgh. At the same time, Bobby is empathic with the Cardinal, so he walks like he’s being led somewhere. He also says “Murray says they’re moving them”.

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There’s about fifteen minutes left in the movie, so let’s stop here for a minute. The movie seems to be breaking down completely.  Up until this point, sure, Bobby’s had a lot of powers–and the constant explanations in the first third only served to muddle them for me rather than clarify what all he could do.  But here, they seem to be operating in direct contradiction to each other.  If Murray can tell Bobby that the Cardinal is being moved to Pittsburgh, why does Bobby need to be physically empathic?  Is Murray’s purpose to explain to Bobby what he’s undergoing?  Because up until now Murray’s just been around to be crotchety and yell at a nun.  Does Murray direct whom Bobby makes connections with, or is it just whomever somebody near him is thinking about?  There seems to be little enough rhyme or reason to some of this that I feel that Bobby should by all rights be suddenly empathic with random people who have nothing to do with the story.   By the way, why, when Sister Elizabeth was younger, did she date an old man?

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Anyway, Bobby, Preston, and Sister Elizabeth catch a plane to Pittsburgh while Wills stays behind trying to trail the bad guys. Somehow Bobby & Co. got to the airport and on the plane before the bad guys even made it out of the building we just saw them in (???!).  Wills approaches the building where the bad guys are, which makes Bobby freak out.  He uses the rest of the special FX budget to make the plane drive away from the airport and through a tunnel, breaking the wings off.  Again, this feels like two puzzle pieces that kind of look like they match being jammed together.

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By the way, here’s some running percentage totals:

Time spent in churches: 10%

Time spent in restaurants: 20%

Bronson Pinchot spasming/speaking in tongues: 50%

Bronson Pinchot making a vehicle go in a different direction: 15%

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Wills gets into a shootout with the bad guys. Look, I hate using that phrase over and over again, but only one of them was verbally named in the movie. According to IMDB, the main bad guy is named Mike, the tiny guy is named Elmore… and are any of you surprised at all to find out that the black guy’s name is Carl?

Anyways, not a single damn one of them manages to shoot Wills, and then the plane arrives.

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Our heroes escape into a strip club and Bobby has a psychosexual overload.  The bad guys catch up and not a single damn one of the patrons of this strip club gets scared when they all pull their guns out.

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Everybody scatters, and Bobby keeps making his sonar noise** and goes kind of comatose.

You know what? There’s like 7 minutes left and I have no shits left to give.  I’ve watched this movie twice now. The first time was just to take notes, but I’ve spent the second viewing trying to figure out whether the story holds together, whether Bobby’s powers constitute a coherent whole, and what the minor characters’ names are.*** I’m tired of trying to make sense of this thing.

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Look, the cops are here.  Let’s hope they can arrest this plot so I can work on a real review for next week.

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All the characters run around until they’re in the same room and then Bobby stops a bullet in midair so it doesn’t kill Wills.

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The music comes on and Balki and Cousin Larroquette share the lesson they’ve learned: get a better agent.

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Once outside, Bobby just straight up asks Maria if she wants to fuck.

I guess I’ve neglected to talk about Larroquette’s and Bronson’s performances in this movie.  So let’s do that now.  The reviews I’ve read about the movie seem to agree that Larroquette is essentially playing his Dan Fielding character from Night Court.  I’ve not seen enough of that show to say whether or not that’s the case.  What I can say is that he’s one of only three actors in this movie who has any presence.  The other two are Bess Armstrong (Sister Elizabeth) and Stuart Pankin (but only when it’s needed; he’s good, I tell you).  Given, Larroquette spends most of his time on screen cursing and smiling that pained smile of his, but he’s got presence.  It’s also fair to say that he and Armstrong were given the most material to work with, even though their romance arc took a backseat to… well, not to the story so much as to the other scenes.

And Bronson… well, he sure did make a movie!  But for all that this movie looks like it was quasi-meant as a vehicle for him, he sure doesn’t make a lasting impression.  He shakes, he talks in voices, he runs around half-naked, he does broad physical comedy.  If you like Bronson as Balki, you’ll like Bronson as Bobby, because he’s almost exactly the same thing, minus the mispronunciations. Bronson does the same things he’s been doing, with the same director, so it’s hard to imagine that he learned much from the experience. Bobby has no real character (history, motives, personal traits), every time he does anything it has to be explained, and plotwise he seems to exist just to keep telling the other characters “go here” over and over again.  For all that he’s supposed to be the key aspect of this detective agency, it was twice the case that the detectives crossed paths with the criminals by accident. I halfway suspect that Bobby’s psychic hunches ended up wrong most of the time because there wasn’t a better way to stitch some of these scenes together.

I wish I knew enough about directing to say whether Joel Zwick did a good job.  Probably not, though, right?

*sigh* There’s one more scene.

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The gang hangs out in a park and the big reveal is that Elizabeth is none more nun.  She kisses Wills.

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Well, gets kissed by Wills, anyway. Murray takes over Bobby and gives them permission to fuck.

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There’s your happy ending: all three guys get to fuck.

Even Murray gets to fuck on the other side.

I did not get to fuck anybody.

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See you next week for “Poetry in Motion”. Join me about a year from now for my review of the film Blame it on the Bellboy.

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*my dad confirms that it’s a 1980s model, but he’s unsure of the year

**it’s a noise you’re familiar with from one of those tiny toy noisemakers that had eight different sounds

***no joke: when I proofread this review I found a couple more plot holes

Tonight! Larryoke: a Perfect Stream

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It’s Friday night!  And the mood is right!

We’re going to have some fun (I’ll show you how it’s done).

Tonight at 8PM Eastern Time/8PM Eastern Time, we’re going to go three hours straight watching Perfect Strangers episodes.  I’ve got six episodes lined up for you–the best, the worst, and four more that will be complete surprises to all of you, I’m sure. Plus there’s going to be 8 Larryoke songs by me, Phil, Sarah, Vivian, Adam Lore , and various surprises sprinkled throughout.

It’s going to last 3 whole damn hours!

All you have to do to join is go to this link around the time it starts:

Larryoke: a Perfect Stream

You can also check out the Facebook Page for the event and it will tell you the correct time to show up!

One last thing–the only thing family-friendly are the episodes themselves. Chat will be foul, and some of the other clips I’m showing have swears in them. Sexual situations, etc.

SEE YOU THERE, COUSINS

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P.S. There will likely be no review next week, either, because I am going to a horror convention in Parsippany, NJ, to meet Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot. I’ll be sure to give you a full report.