Sunday, March 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—She’s Having a Baby (1988) **

PG-13, 106 min.
Director/Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern, Alec Baldwin, James Ray, Holland Taylor, William Windom, Cathryn Damon, Reba McKinney, Bill Erwin, Paul Gleeson, Dennis Dugan, Anthony Mockus Sr., John Ashton, Larry Hankin, Edie McClurg

The most disappointing thing about John Hughes’ 1988 picture “She’s Having a Baby” is that it’s got such great ideas behind it that never seem to reach any sort of velocity. It stars Kevin Bacon as a young man giving up the bachelor life for the married one. He struggles with the notion of settling down and abandoning his dreams of becoming a writer to the responsibility of supporting his wife with an office job writing for an ad agency. It finally culminates in the ultimate commitment to familial conformity—having a baby.

Throughout all of this he fantasizes about the things he’s giving up and the imprisonment of family life. He succumbs to his overbearing father-in-law and daydreams about the women he sees on the street. There’s a sequence when he imagines all the neighbors in his subdivision doing a dance number while mowing their lawns. I mean this could be some really funny stuff. However, right from the opening moments of the film, the pace and tone is off. What should be a wacky comedy comes off more as a serious movie studying the transition of a juvenile into a family man.

It’s easy to tell this material is close to writer/director John Hughes’ heart, but he tackles it in too serious a manner. Although he both wrote and directed the movie, it’s as if he had one side of his personality perform the tasks separately. It’s written like a funny and imaginative knock on how we are willing to sacrifice everything we are for something we love. It’s directed more like a serious meditation on why it is necessary for the boy to conform to the man, no matter how soul crushing it can be.

I love the movies of John Hughes, and there is much to admire about this one, but the overall impression it leaves is one of a film that doesn’t quite know what it is trying to be. Perhaps that’s by design. That certainly describes the man that Kevin Bacon is portraying in this film. It doesn’t work on either the dramatic or comedic levels, however.

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