Reviewed by Reed Hubbard
Rating: 8.5 Beans
once saw Tom Selleck on a talk show where he was griping about the unfortunate timing of the release of one of his movies. It seems the film in question opened nationwide the weekend of the L.A. riots. Selleck implied that the riots were the reason the picture did so poorly. “Folks!” was the movie in question, and I’m here to tell ya, rioting Angelenos had little to do with its box office flop. Free admission and nickel beer couldn’t have drawn people into this dud.
“Folks!” presents us with a clean-shaven Selleck playing Jon Aldrich, a seemingly successful Chicago commodities broker. He lives in a nice building with his wife and two kids where everything seems to be going his way. One night, Jon gets a call from Florida telling him his mother is in the hospital and his dad can’t be found. Being the good son, he hops the first flight to the Sunshine State to help out. His mother is okay, but his dad is home alone and has gone heavily senile. Dad (the late Don Ameche, in one of his most embarrassing roles) manages to burn his trailer down, leaving Jon’s folks with no place to live. Jon’s sister, who he affectionately calls “The Bitch,” lives nearby, but is too worried about landing a second husband to help out, so Jon piles Mom and Dad in their ’74 Caddy and drives back to Chicago.
However, all is not rosy in the Windy City. Jon’s trading firm is under FBI investigation for fraud. Jon is innocent, but everything he owns is seized, including his car and furniture. Not only has he gone from riches to rags, he’s got his parents to deal with, and (wouldn’t you know it) his sister and her two boys show up, having run out of alimony money. Needing cash, Jon’s mother mentions that if she and dear old Dad die in an accident, their insurance will pay double indemnity, so Jon devises several “accidents” in an attempt to off his parents and grab some easy money.
If the idea of a comedy about killing your senile father in a wacky way to make a quick buck offends you, consider yourself normal. It might work in a highly facetious slapstick movie, but “Folks!” isn’t that. It’s a sorta funny, sorta sentimental, sorta moralistic movie that changes direction just when you think you’ve figured it out. To further confuse, it’s laced with a klutzy lead character that gets continually wounded in a series of nutty events. These wacky injuries are supposed to be Three Stooges type comedy, but Larry, Moe or Curley never really got hurt, unlike Jon. He gets his eye poked, his foot run over, his wrist and hand broken, his ear shot, and even a testicle removed (oh, ha ha!). Far from humorous, it’s pathetic.
The movie is flat out cruel in some places. Jon loads his parents up in their Cadillac for a drive, hoping Pop will smash into a tree or something. Later, the police bring him to the accident scene where over thirty cars are wrecked with many people injured, but the folks are unscathed because of the solid steel car they were driving. To rectify this, Jon puts them in a Pinto and pours gasoline all over it, hoping that will do the trick. Why did anyone think this was going to be funny?
The movie goes so far as to have Jon drive to the ghetto and drop Ma & Pa off on the street corner, in hopes that the Negroes would beat the hell out of them, rape his mother, and kill them both, I guess. After several unsuccessful death tries, Jon decides he’d rather have a family than money. It’s only then that he discovers Dad is carrying around a stock certificate worth half a million dollars. So the moral is, “Don’t kill your parents, they may be worth more alive than dead!”
The filmmakers even tried to make Alzheimer’s disease funny by having Ameche be-bop through the movie like a brainless moron. He stumbles and fumbles and sings the wrong songs off key and wanders into traffic and does all sorts of those dopey, yet lovable things that senile old geezers do, at least in the movies. In real life, Alzheimer’s is a terribly debilitating disease that destroys the lives of thousands of elderly victims yearly. To deal with it in such a flippant manner is downright irresponsible.
Tom Selleck is a fine actor who just can’t choose a script. I challenge anyone to name a great movie in which he has starred. Don Ameche was capable of so much, and even though opportunities were probably becoming scarcer for him, it’s a shame he chose this pathetic piece as one of his last movies. He overdoes the senile bit to the point of nausea. Even if you find such antics funny, Ameche’s capers become tedious rapidly.
Director Ted Kotcheff is best known for “First Blood” and “Weekend at Bernie’s.” All I can figure is that he decided to combine the two films and “Folks!” was the result. The movie is so offensive, I kind of wonder if Selleck wasn’t right about the movie being connected to the riots. How many rioters do you think were outraged over the King verdict, and how many do you think had merely just come out of the matinee of “Folks!”? After watching this dreck, you may give the edge to the moviegoers.
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