Pauly Shore is unlikely Middle American marriage material in this well-cast but typically mediocre Disney comedy.
Leaving Iowa for the big, bad city of Los Angeles to go to college, Rebecca (Carla Gugino) is overwhelmed and ready to go home after a few days. But her extremely eccentric dormmate, Crawl (Shore), convinces her to stay and give the city a chance. She does, and it works its magic. Becca (as Crawl
quickly dubs her) digs into SoCal life with a relish, dropping her farm duds for hot city threads, changing her hair style and color, getting a tattoo and spending what little free time she has left rollerblading like a maniac. Soon Thanksgiving looms, and the thought of an almost-certain marriage
proposal from her home town flame, Travis (Dan Gauthier), unaccountably fills her with dread.
Becca impulsively invites Crawl to come home with her, and Dad (Lane Smith), Mom (Cindy Pickett), little brother Zack (Patrick Renna), Gramps (Mason Adams), Travis and hired hand Theo (Dennis Burkley) regard him first as an object of curiosity, then scorn. When Travis--who has been spending his
free time dallying with town bad girl Tracy (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen)--tries to pounce, Becca panics, and Crawl comes to the rescue by announcing his own engagement to Becca, with whom he's secretly in love. Dad is outraged--especially after Crawl announces his plans to take over the family farm
after Dad retires--and Travis punches him in the nose. But Zack is won over when hippie-hacker Crawl helps him with a computer software problem.
Dad sics Theo on Crawl, and under the guise of training, he puts Crawl through numerous farm tortures, from pitching manure to slopping the hogs. But rather than wilting, Crawl takes to farm living in a big way, eventually earning Dad's and Grandpa's respect. Travis tries to win back Becca by
putting Crawl into a compromising situation with Tracy, but Tracy foils the plot and Travis slouches out of Becca's life. Crawl and Becca announce that they've decided to wait before plunging into their marriage, and the family, who now wholly embrace Crawl as one of their own, is delighted.
When it came out, some critics noted resemblances between SON-IN-LAW and Pier-Paolo Pasolini's TEOREMA, which must have made Pasolini want to claw his way out of his grave. Beyond sharing roughly the same premise--a fey outsider seduces each member of a family (and the word seduce is used loosely
here)--any hint of worldliness in SON-IN-LAW disappears soon after the action switches from LA to Iowa, though the film contains several peculiar implications that may or may not have been what the filmmakers had in mind. Becca comes home from college looking rather like a high-priced hooker, and
Crawl seems to have a thing for women's fashion; he's seen in drag at a Halloween party early in the film, and later performs fashion makeovers on both Becca and her mom, which gives Dad a jolt of libidinal adrenaline. But one would speculate in vain. The queasy subtexts have no more bearing on
the characters or main action than they do in other Disney comedies with queasy subtexts. Beyond his fashion sense and computer smarts, little is ever disclosed about Crawl, down to whether or not he ever had parents or a childhood. As comically anarchic forces go, he's strictly a lamb in weirdo's
clothing: a mildly wacky guy who yearns for nothing as much as a midwestern bride and wholesome passel of in-laws. Jim Varney's Ernest looks subversive by comparison. Fitfully funny and intermittently amusing, SON-IN-LAW is like too much of Disney's profligate output, undemanding entertainment for
undemanding people. (Profanity, adult situations.) leave a comment