Friday, May 8, 2015
Azu At The Movies #2: On Our Own
Release Date: January 1, 1988
Runtime: 84 minutes
Director: Lyman Dayton
Production Company: Feature Films For Families
Tagline: In a world tearing them apart, four children fight to stay together!
Have you ever heard of this movie called On Our Own? If you answered no, I'm not surprised. This one of those movies that not many people talk about. Why you may ask? Well I think one of the main reasons why this movie is so obscure is because it was a made for TV movie, which for the most part, don't get much attention. I think another reason why it's so obscure is because there aren't many good places to watch it on the internet. The only video site I could watch it on was VeeHD but even then I still had to download the video since the site required a special plugin for streaming that is said to contain viruses. Despite its obscurity, is there anything in this movie worth checking out? Well, let's look at the story first.
The movie begins with an ambulance driving to a random house to take somebody to the hospital. We later find out that the person going to the hospital was the mother of four children named Mitch, Kate, Travis, and Lori. It turns out that she has died and since the father has abandoned his children, they're sent to a children's home in order for the state to find other family members to take care of them. You know, for an opening to a movie, this is really depressing. Granted it doesn't go into Grave of The Fireflies territory, but even then it's still a sad way to start your movie.
After thorough searching, it seems that the state can't find a suitable relative to take care of the children despite the fact that the children are telling them that they have an uncle named Jack who can take care of them. Unfortunately, the state says they have no record of Jack. Because of this, they're forced to live in a children's home much to their dismay. While staying in the children's home, the siblings fear that they will be separated and thus advise a plan to escape to Arizona where their uncle Jack lives.
They eventually make it back to their original home where Mitch takes a grand total of $9.00, which is all the money he could find in the home. Along with the money, Mitch finds an envelope with Jack's address on it and decides to cut it out, hoping that Jack knows where their father is. The four siblings then decide to take their mother's car with Mitch in the driver's seat. When they drive away, their neighbors spot them and the police aren't too far behind them since the children's home notified them of children's disappearances.
After stopping for food, the siblings make it to a gas station where they only have $1.50 left. Since the siblings can't pay for the gas, they leave an I.O.U and do what I like to call a "Fuel and Run". A little while later, Mitch starts to fall asleep at the wheel and the siblings eventually become stranded in the desert. Enter Peggy Williams, a schoolteacher who happens to be driving through the desert when she spots the children. She asks them if they're OK and the children lie to her in order to get a ride. Peggy then stops at a gas station to call the police after she suspects that they're lying to her.
When Peggy goes in to call the police, Mitch takes Peggy's car and drives away. The siblings manage to escape at the cost of a damaged radiator. The siblings decide to stop for food and while Mitch and Travis are in the store, Travis finds a quarter on the ground and puts it in a slot machine where he wins $10.00. However, when the two leave the store, they're confronted by gangsters who want their money, claiming that it was their quarter that the siblings used. Then Peggy comes in and saves the siblings with a toy gun that resembles a real gun to trick the gangsters into leaving. Ah the 80's! A time where you still had access to realistic looking toy guns.
As Peggy travels with the siblings, they start to form a close relationship with each other. The group eventually makes it to Jack's estate and ranch where it's revealed that Jack isn't the sibling's biological uncle but instead just a friend of their dad. We also find out that he's a wealthy pilot who's married to a creepy woman and her son named Rhett. Really? That's the best name they could come up with? Well at least they didn't name him after a colour. So Rhett and the siblings hang out together and get into a bit of a scuffle, with Rhett attempting to shove Mitch's face into a pile of horse excrement. The siblings eventually fight off Rhett and as Rhett walks away, he makes the most ingenious yet confusing revenge speech ever. He says and I quote: "If I wasn't bleeding all over the place I'd clean your plow. I'll be back." Clean your plow? Why this phrase? Is it because he's on a ranch? Oh well let's just keep going.
Peggy and the children decide to stay in a hotel. When Peggy asks Jack where the sibling's father is and Jack reveals to Peggy that he's in prison. It is here that we discover that Mitch overheard their conversation. The next day, the group stops at a café where the police finally catch up to the siblings. When the police talk to Peggy, the siblings escape on a nearby bus, with Mitch once again in the driver's seat. This leads to a big chase with Peggy, the police, and the siblings. All of a sudden, we see Launchpad McJack join in the chase via Planeus Ex Machina landing in front of the bus. This forces Mitch to stop and Jack asks if he can be the sibling's legal guardian to which the judge approves during a hearing.
Before I go any further, I do have to point out something important that may affect certain elements of the film. From what I've read, the movie was made on a budget of $250.00, which even then wasn't much in 1988. Because of this, elements like the scripting and overall production values are nothing to write home about.
One good thing I have to say about this movie is that the plot does have a lot of potential and some may describe it as Goonies centered around a family tragedy rather than treasure hunting. However, there are parts in the movie that are very cliché and lacking in realism, such as the ending chase scene. When scenes like this happen, they don't really go hand and hand with the realistic tone that this movie is trying to set.
To be honest though, I find the acting to be very wooden. This is especially true for the child actors in this film. I get that this movie couldn't afford big name actors but I think they could've tried a bit more to make the characters engaging. Throughout the film, it seems like the actors are bored with these roles and just want to get through it using monotone voices. Granted the characters do have distinguishable personalities but the acting downplays them to the point where they aren't very noticeable.
Speaking of characters, there was one character that just irritated me to no end. This character is none other than Peggy's mother. Yeah I know I forgot to mention this character in the plot summary but if I included her, the summary would just be one long and drawn out mess. Lord knows it's already long enough as it is! Anyway, every once in awhile, this character pops up to tell us the events that have occurred in the previous scene and give her thoughts. However, most of them just amount to how socially and legally unacceptable the sibling's actions are in achieving their goal. Here's what really irritates me about this character. The movie is already SHOWING that the sibling's actions are inappropriate! So with that in mind, if the movie is already showing how unacceptable the sibling's actions are, why do we need this character to hammer in what we already saw?! Well you see, this character only appears in the Feature Films version of this movie. The reason why they included this character was to make the movie more family friendly. Yeah, I'm not kidding! That's the actual explanation for the appearance of this character. Can I ask a question? Will ANYBODY watching this film not understand its morals WITHOUT this character hammering it in for them? Look, I don't have a problem with a film wanting to teach a lesson as long as its not too heavy handed or intelligence insulting. But with this character, the film fails on all of those accounts.
Overall, I found this movie to be rather underwhelming. I guess some people might watch it for the fantasy of being a runaway kid but even then, there are films that do the "Runaway Kid" plotline much better which may provide a much more enjoyable fantasy anyway. For older audiences, like teens and adults for example, I'd say skip this film. However, I might recommend this film for children under the age of 10, but that's a bit of a stretch honestly because they may grow impatient having to sit through the scenes with Peggy's mother.
Overall Score: D-