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Saturday, February 4, 2012

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 55 - House Arrest (1996)

House Arrest (1996; MGM Films)

Speaking of juvenile delinquents, 1996 brought us House Arrest, a film so stupid that the actors on screen actually seem to be confused by what is going on.  Stories of separating/divorced parents were popular for family films in the 90’s and House Arrest takes the unusual direction of starting with the announcement of the separation.  Personally, I wish these characters would have never gotten married because then we wouldn’t have this movie!

The film focuses on Grover whose parents (played by Kevin Pollock and Jamie Lee Curtis) announce their separation.  Grover’s initial reaction is to lock them in a basement in an over-elaborate manner until they resolve their differences.  After learning of what Grover has done his friend brings over his parents (Christopher MacDonald and Sheila McCarthy) to be imprisoned as well, and the four argue for the duration of the movie while the kids thwart their attempts to escape.

House Arrest is one of those films where the kids are a lot smarter than they really should be. As with Home Alone and (shutter) Hotel for Dogs, the kids (mainly Grover) in this movie manage to turn their basement into an inescapable prison for his parents without anyone noticing.  This includes hiding his father’s tools and boarding up the windows (I particularly remember those preparations because the movie emphasizes these with reaction shots and exposition flourished with a wide-angle lens).  This movie is relentless too.  It really wants us to sympathize with these kids even though they just went all Guantanamo Bay on their parents!

I get trying to make a family-friendly comedy out of what would normally be pretty sad material.  However, House Arrest is one of the laziest movies I have ever sat through.  It is another one of the many films that tried to cash in on the success of Home Alone by showing kids outsmarting adults.  It’s a popular theme in films, pandering to the younger audience who live in the iron grip of their parents.  I guess it is meant to be empowering or something.  That said, House Arrest was an obvious cash-in. However, for a cash-in it was pretty late to the game, by about three years.

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