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Father Hood & Life with Mikey: Double Feature Blu-ray Review

Father Hood (1993) movie poster Father Hood

Theatrical Release: August 27, 1993 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Darrell James Roodt / Writer: Scott Spencer

Cast: Patrick Swayze (Jack Charles), Halle Berry (Kathleen Mercer), Sabrina Lloyd (Kelly Charles), Brian Bonsall (Eddie Charles), Michael Ironside (Jerry), Diane Ladd (Rita/"Aunt Gladys"), Bob Gunton (Mr. Lazzaro), Adrienne Barbeau (Celeste), Georgann Johnson (Judge Anna Barron), Marvin J. McIntyre (Skinny Guy), William Bumiller (Travis), Vanessa Marquez (Delores), Martha Velez-Johnson (Mrs. Carter), Ray DeMattis (Lawyer), Josh Lucas (Andy), Vic Bordelon (Guzman)
Life with Mikey (1993) movie poster Life with Mikey

Theatrical Release: June 4, 1993 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: James Lapine / Writer: Marc Lawrence

Cast: Michael J. Fox (Michael Chapman), Christina Vidal (Angie Vega), Nathan Lane (Ed Chapman), Cyndi Lauper (Geena Briganti), David Krumholtz (Barry Corman), David Huddleston (Mr. Corcoran), Victor Garber (Brian Spiro), Frances Chaney (Mrs. Cantrell), Kathryn Grody (Mrs. Corman), Mary Alice (Mrs. Gordon), Annabelle Gurwitch (Debbie), Kathleen McNenny (Allison Jones), Jonathan Charles Kaplan (George), Tony Hendra (Cookie Commercial Director), Mario Todisco (Driver), Michael Rupert (Harrison), Christine Baranski (Carol), Sean Power (Lenny), Laura Bell Bundy (Courtney Aspinall), Chris Durang (Santa), Barbara Walsh (Commercial Mother), Brenda Curin (George's Mom), Heather MacRae (Mrs. Tobin), Wendy Wasserstein (Mrs. Wasserman), Ryan Kent (Evan), Tim Progosh (Norman Feller), Aida Turturro (Officer Moran), Paula Garces (Janice Vega), Ralph Small (Mr. Wasserman), Kevin Zegers (Little Mikey Chapman/Mikey Burns), Tracy Spindler (Cynthia Burns), Dylan Baker (Mr. Burns), Kate Burton (Mrs. Burns), Anaysha Figueroa (Kimberly Denise Jackson), Mandy Patinkin (Irate Man), Barbara Hollander (Judy Wasserman), Rubén Blades (Richard Vega - uncredited)

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Many of the names behind the biggest movies of the summer of 1993 had been familiar for a while and would continue to be so.
There was Steven Spielberg delivering another huge hit in Jurassic Park. Tom Cruise came up big in The Firm, sparking Hollywood's passionate but short-lived love affair with John Grisham thrillers. Sylvester Stallone had another fine showing in Cliffhanger. With the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle, Tom Hanks scored his second consecutive $100 M grosser. Nearly all of these entertainers would grab the public's attention again just a few months later, with the holiday season releases of Schindler's List, Philadelphia, and The Pelican Brief reasserting the drawing power and prowess of Spielberg, Hanks, and Grisham.

Of course, not every big name in Hollywood saw their stock soaring so high then. The good will that Patrick Swayze had generated in Ghost had quickly evaporated. Meanwhile, Michael J. Fox was finished with both his popular sitcom "Family Ties" and the blockbuster Back to the Future franchise. Although he had shown promise of a movie career beyond that with 1991's strong performing small town comedy Doc Hollywood, the viability of a big screen Fox vehicle was soon to be questioned.

Both Swayze and Fox found themselves headlining small films released that summer by divisions of The Walt Disney Company. Fox's Life with Mikey (Touchstone Pictures) opened wide in early June, grossing a modest $12.4 million. Swayze's Father Hood (Hollywood Pictures) debuted the final weekend of August, earning a measly $3.4 M in limited release. The two movies were among the weakest performers of the 28 films Disney released in 1993. For the first time in a while, the company had no new animated classic that year. But they offered a wide variety of other things, including a prosperous Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reissue, the disastrous Super Mario Bros., Pauly Shore's Son-in-Law, the comedy sequels Another Stakeout and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, the controversial college football drama The Program, the inspirational Olympic bobsledding comedy Cool Runnings, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the Oscar-nominated biopic What's Love Got to Do With It?.

Disney will probably hang on to the home video rights of most of those varied properties. But they've farmed out Life with Mikey and Father Hood to Mill Creek Entertainment, who recently brought both films to Blu-ray for the first time in a single Double Feature disc. If you'd like, think of it as the Troubled Kids with Questionable Guardians Comedy Collection.

In "Father Hood", an irresponsible Dad (Patrick Swayze) kidnaps his two children (Sabrina Lloyd and Brian Bonsall) from the foster care system.

Father Hood casts Swayze as Jack Charles, an irresponsible two-bit criminal who at the beginning of the film is greeted by his two children upon his release from prison. We then go back fifteen months to understand how he came to have to do jail time. No stranger to legal run-ins, Jack is advised by his lawyer to lay low for the 48 hours before his next scheduled court date. But Jack and his Elvis sideburns can't do that because their supposedly teenaged daughter Kelly (Sabrina Lloyd) has run away from her foster home and to Jack's hotel room. Kelly has found life at Bigelow Hall traumatizing and begs her good-for-nothing father to get her transferred anywhere else. At the same time, Jack's younger son Eddie (Brian Bonsall of "Family Ties" and Blank Check fame) is due to be moved into Bigelow.

Jack's accusations are dismissed by the facility's supervisor (Bob Gunton, playing another one of his signature authoritative villains), but his own eyes prove otherwise when they spot Eddie and his fellow foster system children being transported to Bigelow like prison inmates in handcuffs. Thinking on his feet, Jack kidnaps Eddie at gunpoint. The father and two kids find themselves on the run in stolen cars and a boat, with local police and federal authorities on their trail. The fugitive family is headed for New Orleans, where Jack, who is in the business of robbing drug dealers, is to make a big score with his associate (Michael Ironside). Along the way, Dad and the kids make stops at the Hoover Dam and Texas' Cascade Caverns Park. Jack also gets in touch with a reporter (Halle Berry) hoping to expose a legacy of abuse and corruption at Bigelow Hall. That investigation may be a huge bargaining chip in landing Jack a plea deal.

Father Hood is a tough film to wrap your head around. It has this dramatic 1990s score and this odd undercurrent of child abuse pervading it, but it otherwise feels like a family road trip comedy with its episodic nature and cheery Motown soundtrack. Neither South African director Darrell Roodt (Cry, the Beloved Country, Dangerous Ground) nor screenwriter Scott Spencer (the author of Endless Love) has a clear idea if we're supposed to laugh or cry. The movie inspires neither with its uneven tone of melodrama, crime, and a comically deadbeat dad. Without Swayze only narrowly removed from his career peak, there is no way this movie would have seen the inside of over 600 theaters. It is ranked dead last among Swayze's 41 acting credits by IMDb user rating and holds a 0% critic's approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

On a rainy Thanksgiving, Michael Chapman (Michael J. Fox) poses as the father of young pickpocket Angie Vega (Christina Vidal) to get her out of a jam.

Much, much better is Life with Mikey, a light, sweet, and funny feel-good comedy. Michael J. Fox plays Michael Chapman,
who grew up as the scene-stealing child star of the beloved 1970s sitcom "Life with Mikey." Chapman gave up acting fifteen years ago and now unreliably runs a struggling New York children's talent agency with his brother Ed (Nathan Lane).

As a number of montages demonstrate, the young clients of Chapman & Chapman do not boast a great amount of talent. The agency is barely making ends meet on the success of 12-year-old prima donna Barry Corman (David Krumholtz), the self-proclaimed "cereal king." Around Thanksgiving, Michael makes the acquaintance of street-smart sixth grade pickpocket Angie Vega (Christina Vidal) from Brooklyn. Angie's innocent act to get out of trouble impresses Michael, who thinks that she has a shot at landing Sunburst Cookies' much-coveted nationwide television ad campaign.

Life relies heavily on a formulaic and far-fetched premise, as little "orphan" Angie moves into Michael's apartment to get away from her older sister and her sister's boyfriend. The dubious arrangement breeds benefits for both the emotionally stunted girl and the 31-year-old actor who's still cashing in on his childhood fame. Vegetarian Angie cleans up Michael's messy bachelor pad and encourages him to quit smoking. Meanwhile, Michael gets Angie back in school and helps her to try to communicate with her crush.

The feature writing debut of "Family Ties" scribe Marc Lawrence, whose more recent work consists entirely of Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant comedies, Life with Mikey is kind of contrived and too knowingly cute. But it's also highly appealing in its depictions of a grown-up, washed-up child actor, New York City at Christmastime, and the inner workings of a children's talent agency. Fox really sells the material; while much of his film work outside of Back to the Future is mediocre, this project suits him well as a former (and future) TV star. His charisma is nicely complemented by comedic support from Nathan Lane and Cyndi Lauper.

If this film seems unusually enamored with Broadway, that may be the influence of director James Lapine, a man who has had a lot of success on the stage and hasn't worked in film again since the 1990s. Lapine's theatre credits include writing and directing the Stephen Sondheim musicals Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods.

Father Hood & Life with Mikey: Double Feature Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

Father Hood: 1.85:1 Widescreen; Life with Mikey: 1.78:1 Widescreen
2.0 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby 2.0 (Spanish); Life with Mikey only: Dolby 2.0 (French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 9, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $9.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Both films also available in 2-Disc Triple Feature DVD with Swing Vote ($9.98 SRP; June 26, 2012)
Father Hood also available on Amazon Instant Video; previously released as Buena Vista DVD (April 6, 2004); Life with Mikey also available on Amazon Instant Video; Previously released as Buena Vista DVD (April 8, 2003)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Both movies look quite good in their 1.78-1.85:1 widescreen presentations. Father Hood has some grain and a few white specks scattered throughout. Life with Mikey also has some grain and its colors aren't the most vibrant, but digital artifacts are few and far between.

Each movie is presented in 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio. Father Hood's DVD case claimed it got a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Whether that was a misprint or Mill Creek has reduced the film's channel separation, I don't know. Either explanation is believable. The soundtracks are pretty ordinary but fine, with one exception: Father Hood seems to be plagued by a slight but perceivable lip-synch issue, more noticeable on some scenes than others but never completely fixed. Mikey dealt with no such concerns. Each movie receives all-upper case English SDH subtitles and one or two foreign dubs in Dolby Surround 2.0.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Neither film is joined by any bonus features here. That isn't any less than they received on DVD from Disney in the middle of last decade, but it is less than what Mill Creek has been giving many of the titles they have licensed from the studio. It is unfortunate that original theatrical trailers haven't been dug up here. Perhaps music clearances were an issue.

The main menu's simple, scored montage alternates based on the title you highlight. All other options are relegated to pop-up menus. Though the disc doesn't support bookmarks, it does resume movie playback in exactly the same way that a DVD does.

No insert, reverse side artwork, or slipcover spices up the basic side-snapped Blu-ray case, but at least the disc boasts the color artwork that many major studios have abandoned.

Chapman (Michael J. Fox), Chapman (Nathan Lane), and their receptionist Geena (Cyndi Lauper) evaluate their client's black and blue the morning of her big commercial shoot. Investigative journalist Kathleen Mercer (Halle Berry) is determined to expose an institution's history of child abuse in "Father Hood."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This pairing of Father Hood and Life with Mikey illustrates the dilemma that Mill Creek's Double Feature Blu-rays are bound to pose to some customers, which is: Do you like one film enough to overlook the other? With the low list price and lack of any immediate alternative, the studio must be hoping you do and I think their faith is well-placed. It stands to reason that if you like one of these movies deemed too minor for Disney themselves to handle, you probably wouldn't mind seeing another from the same year. And though this release may challenge your shelf sorting and open you up to some collection browser embarrassment, it's too good a deal to resist if you have any interest.

On this set, Life with Mikey is a movie I like a lot and have since the beginning of the millennium, while Father Hood is a movie I first watched a few hours ago and didn't think all that much of. Neither film is appreciated widely enough to expect anything better than the serviceable treatment offered here. For a few dollars, you could much worse.

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Related Reviews:
New: The Santa Clause (Complete 3-Movie Collection) • Annie • The Hole • On the 2nd Day of Christmas • That's My Boy
Patrick Swayze: Ghost • The Fox and the Hound 2 • Red Dawn | Halle Berry: Things We Lost in the Fire
Michael J. Fox: Teen Wolf • Atlantis: The Lost Empire | Christina Vidal: Freaky Friday (2003)
Nathan Lane: The Lion King • Teacher's Pet • Swing Vote | Cyndi Lauper: The Goonies
David Huddleston: Santa Claus: The Movie • The Big Lebowski | Kevin Zegers: Air Bud • Frozen
1993 Films: Mrs. Doubtfire • Hocus Pocus • The Firm • The Nightmare Before Christmas • The Halloween Tree
Written by Marc Lawrence: Did You Hear About the Morgans? | Washed-Up Former TV Actor: Galaxy Quest

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Reviewed October 23, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1993 Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and 2012 Mill Creek Entertainment.
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