Wednesday 14 December 2011

Obscurity Files - Folks!

One of those films that you'll never be able to scrub out of your memory once you've seen it, let's take a closer look at the Tom Selleck/Don Ameche "comedy" Folks!. Ladies and Gents, brace yourselves for fun...

Based on the idea that eccentric family members and horrific bodily trauma are a good basis for laughs, this 1992 comedy pitted family man Tom Selleck against his Octagenarian parents, Don Ameche and Anne Jackson. When his senile father Harry (Ameche) accidentally burns down their house, emotionally distant son Jon (Selleck) has no choice but to bring them home from their retirement village in Florida. To add to his troubles, Jon's also being investigated by the FBI for suspected banking fraud, a situation not helped when Harry goes on TV to say his son's involved with the Mafia.

You know how sometimes two films come out in the same year which seem to have a lot of common themes and similar storylines? Armageddon and Deep Impact both came out in '98, Antz and A Bug's Life also in '98, Dante's Peak and Volcano in '97, The Truman Show and EdTV in '98/99. The list is almost as endless as Hollywood's capacity to recycle ideas, no matter how bad they areWell, the trend started back in 1992 with Folks! and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, two films that seem to be in competition to be the worst film of the 90's.

After reading the synopsis and just when you think this film couldn't offer anything surprising, you take a look at the name of the director, Ted Kotcheff. Don't instantly recognise his name? Take a look at his filmography.... HE DIRECTED FIRST BLOOD. What this says about Sylvester Stallone's impact on cinema as well as other people's careers, I'll let you decide. To be fair to Kotcheff, he's had a fairly varied directorial career that includes comedies like the original Fun With Dick and Jane and the bona fide classic that is Weekend at Bernies, so if anything, First Blood is the anomaly here.

That not weird enough for you? Take a closer look at who produced the film...

Yep, we have the former Italian Prime Minister and noted ladies man Silvio Berlusconi to thank for this film. A quick bit of internet research reveals that the entrepreneurial Silvio has tried dipping his toe in many rivers (easy now) including film production, but after the disastrous performance of this film he decided to stick to something more financially lucrative like international politics.

Although at first Folks! may seem like a poor man's Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (a film thats virtues have been tested before here on the site), both films were actually in production at the same time, with Folks! released in cinemas two months after Sly Stallone's effort. Would this film be more highly regarded if it'd beaten Sly to the screens? Probably not... In fact, no, definitely not.

Both Selleck and Stallone were nominated for Worst Actor awards at the 1993 Razzies, with Stallone eventually getting the honours. Maybe if Folks! had used more exclamation points it might have stood a better chance, but personally I find the use of exclamation points in titles rarely guarantees hilarity. The more slapstick film of the two, Selleck undergoes a wide variety of physical tortures during the film that leaves him minus a toe and a testicle, even matching the low point of Sly's career by agreeing to wear a diaper on film.

If there's anything memorable about this film (apart from the testicle loss of course), it's Selleck's character's ridiculous attitude towards his father's descent into senility, insulting to the condition and going so far in the film's last act as to try and mine some comedy from the idea of Jon killing both his parents to collect on the insurance. They don't want to be a burden to him but can't face the prospect of committing suicide alone, so ask him to help them die by sending them the wrong way up the freeway and torching their car with petrol. If it's euthanasia they're offering, they could start by putting the audience out of their misery.

A film that's been wisely forgotten for many obvious reasons, thank goodness this didn't end up being the great Don Ameche's final performance. So good as Mortimer Duke in Trading Places as well as one of the space travelling pensioners in Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return, he managed to appear as the much more fitting Grandpa in Corrina, Corrina before passing in December 1993. As for Tom Selleck's career, he never quite managed the leading man status that Magnum P.I and Three Men and a Baby almost offered him, his highest profile role since this being his guest appearance on TV's Friends.

If for some bizarre reason you've ignored everything I've said and would like to own it, Folks! is currently out of print on UK DVD, the few remaining copies available going for a hefty £75 over at AmazonI'd recommend you start looking in some charity shops, or be naughty and check it out on YouTube, which would be the smarter option. If anything can be learnt from this experience it's that Tom Selleck without a moustache is just wrong, and that maybe Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot wasn't that bad after all.

Save from obscurity? NO.

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