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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Folks!



Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: D



Tom Selleck was a huge television star in the 1980s thanks to his long-running series, Magnum P.I., but he was never quite able to translate that popularity to the big-screen.  Of course, things may have turned out differently had Selleck been able to accept Steven Spielberg's offer to play Indiana Jones in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Selleck's prior commitment to CBS and Magnum P.I., prevented him from doing so.  His loss was certainly Harrison Ford's gain.


Selleck had the tall, dark and handsome looks and likable personality that should have made him a big movie star, but the fact that he's long been one of only a handful of openly conservative actors in Hollywood couldn't have helped his cause, and terrible movies like 1992's Folks! only hastened his return to the small screen.


Touted as being "from the creators of Weekend at Bernie's," as if that's actually a compliment, Folks! is one of the most poorly-conceived comedies you're ever likely to see.  While Weekend at Bernie's was a broad comedy about the abuse of a corpse that managed to become a moderate hit, writer Robert Klane (Where's Poppa?, The Man With One Red Shoe) and director Ted Kotcheff (Fun With Dick and Jane (1977), North Dallas Forty, First Blood) decided that if abusing a dead body made audiences laugh, then old folks with Alzheimer's Disease will be a real knee-slapper.


Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Folks! is an alleged black comedy about senility and assisted suicide.  As tasteless and obnoxious as it is labored and unfunny, Folks! is one of those movies that's such an oddball disaster that you come away wondering how anybody let it be financed, produced and distributed?  While watching this travesty unfold, you keep asking yourself, "What were they possibly thinking?"  Maybe the problem was that they weren't thinking at all.


Selleck must have done this one and his supporting role in 1992's Christopher Columbus: The Discovery strictly for a paycheck, knowing his days as a Hollywood leading man were numbered.  He plays a Chicago stockbroker named Jon Aldrich, whose happy life with his wife (Wendy Crewson) and kids is disrupted when he's summoned to Florida when his mother (Anne Jackson) enters the hospital.  Jon hasn't seen his folks for 7 or 8 years, and he's surprised to discover that his father (Don Ameche) now has Alzheimer's Disease, remembering vividly events from 1943, but continually forgetting who and where he is in the present.


Folks! is essentially a one-joke comedy where the joke is that Jon's life is ruined by the combination of an FBI investigation of his office and his elderly parents moving in with him.  He injures an eye, loses a testicle and loses his fortune while looking after his parents, and continues to be the one everything backfires on once his parents decide they no longer want to be a burden and persuade him to help them attempt suicide by making it look like an accident in hopes Jon can redeem himself with the insurance money.  The thing is there's nothing funny about the dementia of old folks, assisted suicide or Selleck continually getting injured while yelling in his high-pitched voice.


This is a comedy only Dr. Kevorkian could have loved.  Journeyman director Kotcheff worked effectively in a number of genres before Folks!, but hasn't directed a feature film since.  I doubt Klane's lame screenplay could have been improved much by any director, but dark humor needs to be handled deftly, not treated like a shrill, overplayed sitcom.


Anchor Bay has given this Fox title a nice 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround.  It's probably the best Folks! has looked since the week it played to empty theaters in early May of 1992.  It also probably will come as no surprise for anyone to learn that Folks! opened "cold" in theaters across the country, meaning no advance screenings were held.  The only special features included on the DVD are the theatrical trailer and TV Spots, which make Folks! look like the dog it turns out to be.



-   Chuck O'Leary


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