Dutch

1991, Movie, PG-13, 107 mins

Review

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Actor Ed O'Neill makes an impressive transition from Al Bundy on TV's raucous "Married ... With Children" to the title role in DUTCH, a John Hughes production directed by Peter Faiman.

A down-to-earth Chicago contractor, Dutch is determined to bring his girlfriend Natalie's (JoBeth Williams) young son Doyle (Ethan Randall) home for Thanksgiving, but when he arrives at the exclusive Georgia prep school Doyle attends, the snobbish, spoiled youth has different ideas. Dutch ends up literally carrying the kicking, screaming brat under his arm to his car. Since Dutch and Doyle have nothing whatever in common beyond Natalie, whom the child professes to dislike, the journey home becomes one long clash of wills.

Dutch does his best to keep his cool despite Doyle's increasing hostility, pranks and complaints. He even endures such physical abuse as being kicked in the shins, pummelled and other assorted humiliations. Doyle idolizes his uppercrust father Reed (Christopher McDonald), who supplies his son with all the material comforts, but who is, in all other ways, neglectful and uncaring. The last straw--more or less--occurs when, in a spiteful rage, Doyle trashes Dutch's car, forcing the pair to hitch the rest of the way home. Man and boy are picked up by two oddball hookers, Brock and Halley (Ari Meyers and E.G. Daily) ... one kind-hearted; the other not quite so nice. Sudden exposure to these women creates a situation in which Doyle does some growing up. The finale predictably finds Dutch and Doyle reunited with Natalie--and there's even a delicious denouement awaiting Doyle's hapless father during a showdown with Dutch.

Had O'Neill been playing a newspaper reporter instead of a contractor and had young Randall been female and a little older, the plot of DUTCH would have been virtually identical with Frank Capra's classic of a bygone era, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934). This latest twist on that basic theme, however, provides quite a few moments of fun and pathos for audiences who appreciate sophisticated family fare. Admirably, writer Hughes and director Faiman (CROCODILE DUNDEE) have seen fit to play the culture clash angle for all it's worth and the whole show is virtually the Dutch and Doyle relationship: the striking contrast of one adult male, sometimes uncouth and always uninhibited, pitted against one of the most snobbish, rude, arrogant and precocious brats the silver screen has ever depicted.

Unquestionably, the fun inherent in DUTCH is almost entirely derived from the individual moments nicely played by O'Neill and Randall. Though portraying complete opposites, the two actors prove to be equally matched as scene stealers. Lending excellent support are JoBeth Williams, in the small but crucial role of Doyle's harrassed mother Natalie, and Christopher McDonald as the boy's philandering, unfeeling father. Also, veteran actress Kathleen Freeman (the late Jean Hagen's speech coach in the classic SINGIN' IN THE RAIN) is on hand for a few splendid moments as Natalie's homey mom, Gritzi. (Adult situations, mild profanity.) leave a comment

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