From the Archive: Dutch

In the early nineteen-nineties, John Hughes was still enough of an active brand that I could write this entire review of Dutch without mentioning that it was actually directed by someone completely different, all the more notable given that it was Peter Faiman’s official follow-up to Crocodile Dundee, a ridiculously huge hit five years earlier. Hughes’s fingerprints are so messily smeared across the movie that it was — and is — strange to attribute its creative energies to anyone else (Hughes did write the screenplay.) This was released in the summer of 1991. Later that year, Hughes delivered what would prove to be the last film he directed: the dreadful Curly Sue. Weirdly enough, the stars of Dutch eventually reunited when Ed O’Neill and Ethan Embry (billed as Ethan Randall in the movie) played familiar police partners Joe Friday and Frank Smith in the failed television revival of Dragnet.

DUTCH is the latest film release to spring from the mind of John Hughes, and the mark of its creator is definitely apparent. Some filmmakers are recognizable by their style, some by the way the tackle controversial issues. The work of John Hughes, however, is almost instantly identifiable largely because he usually sticks to the same formula and has a frustrating tendency to repeat himself. For example, DUTCH can very easily be summed up by saying it’s sort of a cross between UNCLE BUCK and PLAINS, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. DUTCH is just too familiar.

Ed O’Neill of TV’s MARRIED WITH CHILDREN plays the title character: a down to earth guy who journeys to Georgia in order to bring his girlfriend’s spoiled, rich son home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. During the long trip home, O’Neill tries to teach the young boy not to be so consumed with his own anger and not so self-centered. They also lose their car, lose their money, and find themselves struggling to get to Chicago. It’s old ground for Hughes, and it’s never been duller than it is in this movie.

Though most of the actors give reasonable performances, the audience never connects with anyone on screen. We’re numbed to the conflict and the results of all the arguments and plot twists are obvious from the first moment these characters fill the screen. There’s nothing new, interesting, or unique going on here. Everyone involved has managed to construct a film that seems like one hundred percent padding. DUTCH has nothing underneath its surface, and nothing on top of it either.

(1 star, out of 4)

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