Do not let the 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes fool you. Dutch, written by John Hughes and directed by Peter Faiman, stars Ed O’Neill as the title character, Dutch. To give you a brief synopsis, courtesy of imdb.com: “To get to know his girlfriend’s son, a working-class good guy volunteers to pick him up from a prep school – only to learn that her son isn’t the nicest kid.”
Ethan Embry plays the “girlfriend’s son”, Doyle. The film also stars JoBeth Williams and Christopher McDonald.
First, let me say that I had no idea Ethan Embry was even in this film. Apparently, I was paying very little attention to the opening credits, because when I finally saw who was playing the kid, I nearly lost my shit. Little Ethan Embry. Love it.
This film is written by John Hughes. Now, John Hughes has a way of pulling on your heart strings. He has a way of bringing very real emotions into his comedies. In Dutch, those very real emotions mostly stem from the character of Doyle. Doyle is pretty much abandoned by his father. His father, who has full custody of him, has placed him in a prep school. He only sees his son on holidays. However, when it’s nearly Thanksgiving, Doyle is informed, by his mother, that his father will be away in Europe, and that Doyle will be joining her and her boyfriend for Thanksgiving. Now, Doyle, although he is a spoiled little brat that, for most of the film, you genuinely want to punch in the face, is really just feeling abandoned. He blames his mother for the divorce and for not really fighting for him. So, he has negative emotions towards her. And his father, as stated above, puts his son on the backburner of his life. He only sees his son when it is convenient for him. And to be child with these feelings of abandonment is heartbreaking. And that heartbreak is very carefully laced all throughout the film.
Now, some may argue that this film is awfully close to another of John Hughes’s, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and I would be inclined to agree with you. The two films are very similar. We have two main characters who don’t really like each other all that much. They are traveling to Chicago in order to get home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. They have tons of issues on the journey home from car trouble to robbery. So, yes, they are very similar. However, I would still argue that this is a film worth watching, simply for the soon-to-be step-father/soon-to-be step-son aspect of the film. I would still argue that you should watch this film because Hughes has a way of understanding children better than most. Most writers would just write the kid as bratty and then maybe they have a turn-around moment. And, yes, the kid is bratty. And, yes, he does have a turn-around moment (a heartbreaking one, at that). But, he does show other emotions throughout the entire film. Just look at the kid’s face. He’s hurt and he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand what is going on in his life, not fully. What he ultimately realizes is that the guy that has been driving him crazy as they’ve been driving back across the country is, in some ways, more of a father to him than his actual father (who blew him off for Thanksgiving, by the way. Real class act).
Actual laugh out loud moments:
- Dutch carrying Doyle out of the dorm tied to his hockey stick, all because Doyle would not leave willingly.
- The spiral firework spinning out of control, landing in the bag filled with the rest of the fireworks, Dutch throwing his jacket over it, and everything going off. Dutch, then, going back over, grabbing his jacket, putting it on and walking back to the car, all the while, the jacket is still smoking. He finally gets into the car (feathers from the coat flying everywhere) and simply states “Fireworks are fun.”
That firework scene is such an important one in this film, and not just because of its obvious comedic value. This scene shows Dutch simply trying to make the kid smile. He can see that Doyle is messed up emotionally. He knows about his father and he knows about the situation with the mother. All he is trying to do is to make the boy smile, and that is really telling of his character.
Would I say this is one of Hughes’s best films? No. But, I would say that it is enjoyable and endearing. Not a bad film, at all.