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With: Drew Barrymore, Catherine O'Hara, Luke Wilson, Jake Busey, Shelley Duvall
Written by: Vince Gilligan
Directed by: Dean Parisot
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual humor
Running Time: 91
Date: 09/16/1998

Home Fries (1998)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Heaven or Helicopters

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Drew Barrymore's grandfather, John Barrymore, once fell in love with Greta Garbo in the Oscar winner Grand Hotel (1932). Drew could be their secret love child for all the amazing star power she possesses. She's not a great actress, yet. But give her time. I'm saying she's a star. She can pop off the screen. She can make people go to the movies based on her presence alone. Her image is memorable while a hundred others' fade away.

On the other hand, like Greta Garbo, she seems doomed for ordinary and mediocre material -- the kind of material that she must overcome rather than enhance, as in Home Fries. This bizarre romantic comedy retreads old material. Drew plays Sally, a sharp small town girl with curly red hair who works at the local Burger-Matic. Sally is about 8 1/2 months pregnant. Her lover, who is married and lied to her about it, pulls through the drive through to say hi, and is then chased by a high-tech military helicopter until his heart fails and he dies. The "killers" are his stepsons, Dorian (Luke Wilson) and Angus (Jake Busey). During the chase, the boys pick up transmissions from the Burger-Matic microphone headsets. So, Dorian gets a job there to see if anyone knows about the "killing."

Of course, you can see where this is going. Dorian and Sally are made for each other. But the weird thing about Home Fries that leaves a bad taste in your mouth is the psychological violence. The powerful helicopters are everywhere, as if the writer (Vince Gilligan) and director (Dean Parisot) had a fetish for them. Also, the two brothers seem to be locked in an emotional battle for mother, Catherine O'Hara's affection. (She flat-out tells Dorian that he's her favorite.) It comes down to scenes where Angus lets his mother fixation take hold and gets in his mighty helicopter to make the pain go away. I know that all comedies must have their buffoons and bad guys, but this time it's not just a mean streak. This time it touches on something very dark and ugly and treats it lightly.

But, like I said, Drew comes through for us. Her easy charm and winning smile put us back on track, giving us something familiar and wonderful to cling to. If you're going to see Home Fries, see it for Drew, but don't say I didn't warn you about the rest of the mess.

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