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By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 19, 1991


Peter Faiman
Ed O'Neill;
JoBeth Williams;
Ethan Randall
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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When John Hughes puts his name on a movie, you can depend on at least two things:

• It will be just like those other John Hughes movies.

• John Candy will be in it.

In "Dutch," screenwriter Hughes breaks one of his rules: Candy is noticeably missing. The other Hughes tradition, it seems, is sacrosanct.

The enduring legend about Hughes is that he holes up for the weekend, loads up on junk food and good music, then cranks out a script by Monday. If that's true, then "Dutch" was finished, checked for typos and on its way to Hughes's agent by mid-Friday evening. Hughes, a man more prolific than Stephen King and less inspired than Aaron Spelling, has produced yet another forgettable project. This movie shouldn't even be allowed on planes.

Speaking of aviation, "Dutch" is "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" all over again. In that (funnier) movie, plane-delayed executive Steve Martin tried to reach Chicago by any means possible in time for Thanksgiving. To add to his exasperations, he had lowlife windbag Candy in tow.

In "Dutch," truck leaser Ed O'Neill vows to bring his girlfriend's nasty, estranged son (Ethan Randall) home, in a bid to reunite mother and son. When the vengeful teenager totals O'Neill's car, they have to get to Chicago by any means possible -- in time, of course, for Thanksgiving.

At least "Planes" had the comic benefit of Martin and Candy. In "Dutch," O'Neill (star of the TV show "Married . . . with Children") and Randall are neither funny nor alive. Hughes is so busy making them different from each other, he turns them into cardboard.

O'Neill is a down-home, working-class saint who wears plaid shirts, loves greasy-spoon restaurants and knows about Real Life. He knows how to be a kid too; he gets a big bag of fireworks for the boy and ends up playing with them himself. Randall is a patrician prep-schooler who hates his divorced mother (JoBeth Williams), despises O'Neill's low-class ways and seems to have bypassed his childhood.

When O'Neill collects Randall at his exclusive Georgia private school, battle lines are drawn immediately. They duke it out all the way north, until their class war leaves them carless, penniless and stuck in a center for displaced families and badly drawn Hughes characters. Will the kid ever loosen up and love his Mom? Can the big lug get through to him? Will someone please give these people a ride home so the movie can end?

"Dutch," directed by Peter ("Crocodile Dundee") Faiman, inches towards its inevitable conclusion with glacial mediocrity. One way or another, Randall will resolve things with O'Neill, his mother and snooty father Christopher McDonald; and all the right people will sit down together for that Thanksgiving celebration. For all his mistakes, Hughes did one thing right: He chose the appropriate bird to remember this movie by.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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