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'Arrest': Parent Claptrap

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 14, 1996

Kevin Pollak and Jamie Lee Curtis are anything but a sizzling screen couple, yet their impending breakup is the primary focus of the insipid family comedy "House Arrest." When the lackluster pair tell their movie children about their impending separation, the youngsters spring a '90s version of 1961's "The Parent Trap."

In the Hayley Mills movie, twin sisters indulged in a bit of romantic chicanery to get their estranged parents back together. It's doubtless a sign of the times that today's little re-matchmakers take their parents hostage, then lock them in the basement to work things out.

Matters become complicated but increasingly repetitious when Grover (Kyle Howard) confides in his best friend, Matt (Mooky Arizona), who insists upon enrolling his own dysfunctional folks in Grover's compulsory couples therapy. As the word spreads, other classmates lure their flawed parental units into Grover's basement, where they get on one another's nerves -- and ours -- as they fuss, fume and wanly attempt escape.

Upstairs, the children eat junk food, watch TV and enjoy other largely uneventful and uninventive pursuits. Except for Ray Walston's nosy old man next door, surprisingly few adults notice that several highly visible and responsible members of their small community have vanished without a word. Those who do inquire readily accept the kids' lame explanations as to their parents' whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the children monitor their parents' progress via video equipment they have installed in the basement. Grover, no stranger to TV talk shows or self-help books, broadcasts his variation on Montel Williams to his captive audience. Though the youngsters do make some progress with the couples, it's painfully obvious that none of these marriages is happy.

To their credit, director Harry Winer ("SpaceCamp") and writer Michael Hitchcock do not surrender to family values fever. Some parents don't go on to live happily ever after. Otherwise, there's little to commend this formulaic and misleading fantasy, which seems sadly aimed at an especially fragile audience -- kids from broken homes who all too often blame themselves.

House Arrest is rated PG.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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