This `Yours' isn't up to original's mark

MovieReview C-


Back in 1968, audiences delighted in seeing beloved film veterans Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball play newlyweds with 18 kids between them. Watching them trying to manage such a big, unruly brood made for a lot of grins and a fine, family-friendly night at the movies. It also served as an inspiration for TV's The Brady Bunch.

The 2005 remake of Yours, Mine and Ours proves one thing beyond dispute: Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo are not Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. No disrespect to Quaid or Russo, fine actors both. But they are far from the cinematic heavyweights necessary to make a slight film like this work. Not that they're the only things wrong with 2005's Yours; Raja Gosnell's direction is spiritless, Ron Burch and David Kidd's screenplay witless. The whole endeavor smacks of least-common-denominator filmmaking, absolutely bereft of inspiration. But at least some star power might have helped.

Then again, when the director's previous works were the two Scooby-Doo movies, and the only thing the screenwriting team did before this was 2001's Head Over Heels (a very bad "comedy" about supermodel roommates), perhaps it was folly to expect anything different.

Russo is Helen North, a widowed mother of 10, many of them adopted (which allows the family to have the requisite rainbow hue with a black, an Asian and other nationalities), all of them free spirits. Quaid is Frank Beardsley, a U.S. Coast Guard admiral, likewise widowed, whose eight-member brood is kept in line thanks to the military-like precision with which he runs his family. Charts are posted all over their house, bathroom time is allocated down to the minute - you get the idea.

Things seem to be running smoothly enough, until old schoolmates Helen and Frank meet at their high school reunion, and the former sweethearts decide to pick up where they left off. Without telling anyone, they run off and get married, then head home to tell the kids.

There's miscalculation No. 1: No one with that many kids is going to get married on the spur of the moment. Certainly, no one with that many adopted kids would be so callously indifferent to their feelings. Likewise, no regimented military man like Frank is going to act on such an impulse. Right away, we think little of these two, who seem irresponsible at best, recklessly immature at worst. (Back in 1968, the screenwriters made Fonda and Ball at least agonize over the decision for a while.)

Should it surprise anyone the newly united family doesn't get along? Nope, but what is surprising is that the filmmakers proceed immediately to miscalculation No. 2: Within a few onscreen minutes of meeting each other, the 18 kids agree to make their parents' lives miserable, thus increasing the chance that they'll get a quickie divorce and things can go back to the way they were.

Great, 18 brats and two unthinking adults. Is there anyone in this film we can sympathize with? Well, there is Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt, reduced to playing a wisecracking, hard-drinking housekeeper with hardly any screen time. At least we can feel sorry for the desperate measures Hunt must employ to keep her career going.

The best thing that can be said about this Yours, Mine and Ours is that it's inoffensive, in the sense that there are few swear words, no violence beyond a bevy of pratfalls (poor Quaid and Russo deserve combat pay for all the time they spend bottom-side down) and nothing from which one needs to shelter little kids. Unless you're trying to teach them good taste, in which case this film is offensive in the worst possible way.

Yours, Mine and Ours (Paramount Pictures)

Starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo.

Directed by Raja Gosnell.

Rated PG (some mild crude humor).

Time 90 minutes

Review C-

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