Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest, Dennis Dugan, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Linke, Jason Robards, Rick Moranis, Tom Hulce, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves
Lowell Ganz (and story), Babaloo Mandel (and story), Ron Howard (story)
It could happen to you.
Director Ron Howard teams with Steve Martin and an all-star cast to create a hilarious, touching and unforgettable portrait of life's most rewarding occupation: Parenthood. The Buckmans are a modern-day family facing the age-old dilemma of trying to raise children the 'right' way. At the center of the storm is Gil (Steve Martin), who manages to keep his unique sense of humor while attempting to maintain a successful career and be a loving husband and parent, all at the same time. As Gil and the rest of the Buckmans discover, being the 'perfect' parent often means just letting children be themselves.
$10.506 million on -unknown- screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 129 min.
Release Date: 4/24/2007
• “Art Imitating Life” Featurette
• “Family Reunion” Featurette
• “Words and Music” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
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Parenthood: Special Edition (1989)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2007)
Literally the child of the sitcom world, Ron Howard would eventually develop into a director who succeeded within a variety of genres. Indeed, he won a Best Director Oscar for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, a dramatic biography.
As of 1989, however, Howard did best with lighter fare. 1982’s broad farce Night Shift became a moderate hit, and 1984’s romantic comedy Splash turned into his first genuine box office winner. 1985’s Cocoon broadened into fantasy fare to a degree, but it stayed pretty close to Howard’s roots. 1988’s Willow took Howard into action/adventure territory, but not with great success, as neither audiences nor critics really took to it.
1989’s Parenthood rook Howard back to comedy and became a surprise hit that summer. It didn’t match up with big hitters like Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but it did much better than expected as it narrowly passed the coveted $100 million mark. That put it ahead of much more hyped projects such as Star Trek V and Ghostbusters II.
Parenthood focuses mostly on Gil Buckman (Steve Martin), the husband of Karen (Mary Steenburgen) and the father of nine-year-old Kevin (Jasen Fisher) as well as younger siblings Taylor (Alisan Porter) and Justin (Zachary Lavoy). Kevin displays emotional problems in school, so the family needs to deal with those complications. Gil also runs into problems at work, where he needs to put in more time to advance his career. That causes stress at home since he can’t be with them as much as he’d like.
We meet Gil’s extended family as well and see their relationships. There’s crotchety, distant patriarch Frank (Jason Robards), matriarch Marilyn (Eileen Ryan), and his grandmother (Helen Shaw).
We also encounter Gil’s single mother sister Helen (Dianne Wiest), her extremely uncommunicative teen son Garry (Leaf – later known as Joaquin - Phoenix), teen daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton) and her goofball boyfriend Tod (Keanu Reeves). Their father Ed rarely interacts with them, as he prefers to spend time with his new family. This creates problems with Garry.
Gil’s other sister Susan (Harley Kozak) lives with yuppie husband Nathan (Rick Moranis) and pre-school daughter Patty (Ivyann Schwan), who they raise in an overly intellectual manner. That’s really Nathan’s bag, though, and Patty starts to resent the way he leaves her out of the decision-making. Finally, ne’er-do-well brother Larry (Tom Hulce) returns to the scene, where he causes disruptions due to his recklessness and selfishness, especially since he largely ignores his responsibilities to little son Cool (Alex Burrall).
That’s a lot of characters, but Parenthood balances them all fairly well. To be sure, this isn’t what you’d call a plot-driven movie. It follows story threads related to the various families, but none of them dominates. The film bounces around the different concepts and doesn’t emphasize any of them.
Howard balances all of these quite well. The movie easily could’ve turned into an incoherent mess, but that never occurs. Instead, Howard makes sure we get enough of each tale and melds them in a smooth, fluid manner. We go from one to another in a natural way that just feels right. The result is never awkward or disjointed.
I might knock the script for one reason: the fact that the movie involves so many major life events for all the participants. It seems tough to swallow that all these different occurrences would come in such a short period of time. Again, Howard manages to meld them in a seamless enough manner so that they don’t seem difficult to believe, but in retrospect, I can see the soap opera side of things.
As a comedy/drama, Parenthood walks a fine line between jokes and seriousness. Howard also blends these two elements well, though it occasionally veers into gooeyness. The flick suffers from some precious moments, such as the self-consciously clever opening fantasy sequence. Other dream elements work better, though. For instance, when Gil imagines the positive and negative consequences of his influence over Kevin, we get funny moments that still aptly illustrate the highs and lows of raising kids. The flick can border on sappiness – and it occasionally crosses that line – but it remains fairly natural and real.
In addition to the assured direction, Parenthood benefits an absolutely stellar cast. From top to bottom, the flick boasts a terrific group of actors, and most do very good work. Some surprises occur along the way, especially in terms of the excellent performance from Reeves. He always did well as dopey dudes in the Bill and Ted vein, and his Tod is both funny and endearing.
Really, it’s very tough to find a problem – except for one surprising source. I’ve enjoyed Martin’s work since way back in the “wild and crazy guy” days, and he amuses in Parenthood. However, I consider him to be the weak link in the flick. Martin can’t handle the dramatic side of his part. The other actors help cover for him to a degree, but they also accentuate his weaknesses.
For instance, when we see serious discussions between Gil and Karen, the scenes falter because we can see the seams in Martin’s acting. The other performances come across as natural and really inhabit their parts, while Martin forces himself into the part. He doesn’t truly harm the film; indeed his humor helps make it more entertaining than we otherwise might expect. However, Martin’s lack of acting chops means that the flick loses some points in terms of dramatic consistency.
Despite that problem and a few other minor weaknesses, Parenthood remains an entertaining and endearing portrait of family pressures. It does so with charm and humor. Despite some sudsy moments, the movie portrays its issues in a believable manner and amuses along the way.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-
Parenthood appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That made it a step up over the 1998 DVD, as that one only provided a fullframe transfer. Unfortunately, the quality of the visuals seemed erratic.
Sharpness looked decent. The movie remained fairly crisp and detailed much of the time, but inconsistencies occurred. At times the flick came across as somewhat soft and indistinct, though not with much frequency. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to materialize, but print flaws were a modest issue. I saw periodic examples of speckles, grit, blotches and other light debris. The defects never became extreme, but I thought the movie offered too many of them.
For the most part, colors looked positive. Skin tones occasionally came across as somewhat reddish, and a few interiors showed slightly muddy hues, but usually I found the colors to seem acceptably vivid and vibrant. Black levels seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not excessively heavy. Ultimately, Parenthood offered a satisfactory image, but not one that seemed particularly memorable.
I felt a little more impressed by the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Parenthood. Comedies usually feature very limited soundfields, and as a whole, the flick fit into that mold. The mix remained fairly heavily oriented toward the forward channels. In the front, I heard pretty solid stereo separation, however, as both music and effects seemed nicely delineated and spaced appropriately. Elements blended together cleanly and they moved from channel to channel in a smooth and natural way.
In regard to the surrounds, they mainly offered general reinforcement of the forward spectrum, but they managed to add a nice layer of ambience to the package. The music became more involving at times. For instance, baseball games added elements in the rears that brought out a good sense of place, and Gil’s gunman nightmare kicked in some pizzazz. The soundfield didn’t excel, but it worked well for the material.
Audio quality also seemed solid. I heard a smidgen of edginess to a little of the speech, but that only occurred on a couple of occasions. Otherwise, the dialogue sounded natural and distinct, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and accurate, with no signs of distortion or other problems. Music was bright and vivid, as Randy Newman’s score showed nice definition. There wasn’t enough at work here to merit a grade above a “B“, but I thought the mix was good for the material.
For this new “Special Edition” DVD of Parenthood, we find a few extras. Art Imitating Life lasts 27 minutes, 45 seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We get notes from director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. All four chat together as they reminisce about the flick.
The program looks at the project’s origins and the development of the story. We learn of influences over the tale as well as the various competing stories and structural concerns. We also get info about cast and performances plus Howard’s directorial choices, and initial hopes for the flick.
“Art” turns into a pretty terrific little feature. It gives us a tight view of the script and cast as it delves into many issues connected to the film. I especially like the discussion of the real-life origins of some movie scenes. It’s good to get the four men together to chat, and they ensure that we learn a lot about the flick along the way.
Next comes Words and Music, a six-minute and 24-second look at composer Randy Newman. The composer discusses his career in music and how he ended up in movies. Newman also chats about the specifics of his Parenthood work. He gives us nice remarks about his material in this short but sweet featurette.
Family Reunion runs 19 minutes, 20 seconds and features notes from Howard, casting director Jane Jenkins, and actors Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest, Jasen Fisher, Jason Robards, Helen Shaw, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves, Harley Kozak, Dennis Dugan and Tom Hulce. Many of the participants come from the movie’s set; Jenkins, Plimpton, Kozak, Hulce, Dugan and Steenburgen offer modern segments.
We learn how they cast Martin first and then built around him. We also find remarks about the characters, performances and interactions on the set.
The different perspectives help make “Reunion” useful. We find good notes about the flick and find out a few acting topics. And who knew Steenburgen still looked so good? She may be hotter now than 20 years ago! “Reunion” provides another satisfying program.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Saturday Night Live Season One, The Blues Brothers, The Good Shepherd and HD-DVD. The disc also includes the trailer for Parenthood, and it’s a fun one since it features lots of exclusive material; it’s not just a conglomeration of movie clips.
Although it occasionally borders on the edge of soap opera, Parenthood usually stays on the right side of that line. It offers a likable, amusing tale of family life that works despite a few minor missteps. The DVD presents decent picture quality along with pretty good audio and a few productive supplements. Though the DVD doesn’t excel in any particular way, it offers a good enough release and movie to merit my recommendation.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2307 Stars
| Number of Votes: 13