Who Gets the House?

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From the fine folks at Feature Films for Families comes an exceptionally bad piece of work that they’re hoping people will watch just because it has no nudity, swearing or violence, and because it has a happy message.

Never mind that any adult who has ever seen a movie before will probably find it unbearable to sit through this illogical tripe whose screenplay would be rejected by any Screenwriting 101 teacher for its convenient and tidy resolutions and horrifyingly bad dialogue.

Never mind that even kids may not be terribly impressed with it, especially when they’ve already seen so many family movies that are funnier and more creative — “Tarzan,” “The Iron Giant,” “My Dog Skip,” to name a few.

No, the point here — and the point that is pointed out most often in FFF’s promotional literature — is that the film is WHOLESOME. It doesn’t have any objectionable content in it; therefore, it’s a good movie.

Wrong. This is a bad movie.

“Who Gets the House?,” available on video but now being released in some area theaters, is about Don and Rebecca Reece (Carl Marotte and Sophie Lorain), their four kids, and the guy named Eliott (“Star Trek’s” George Takei) who is remodeling their house and generally acting like a sitcom character. Mom and Dad haven’t been speaking to each other, and divorce seems imminent, according to the kids’ know-it-all friend Jennifer (Fatuma Kayembe).

As a precautionary measure, Jennifer — whose dad is a lawyer — draws up a legal motion saying that if the Reeces get divorced, rather than bouncing the kids back and forth between them in joint custody, the KIDS will get ownership of the house, and the PARENTS will have to take turns living there with them. Not only does this girl (who is not more than 13 years old) successfully write up this document, but she succeeds in getting a judge to pass it!

This alone is so stupid that one loses all hope of the film making any sense after that; indeed, it is so stupid that one begins to lose hope in humanity in general. And unfortunately, one is right. The parents do get separated, and they unquestioningly follow the instructions of the child-written court order. Then the house thing becomes a minor point — just one of several things the movie starts doing then forgets about — as the kids move into operation “Parent Trap,” trying to get their folks back together.

The son orders a device from a technology catalog that allows you to make your voice sound like any other person’s, provided you first get that person to record a sample. He eventually uses this bit of impossible technology to get his parents talking to each other on the phone, disguising both of their voices so they each think they’re talking to someone else.

(This device, by the way, is also his science-fair project, and it earns him national news attention — despite the fact that he didn’t INVENT it, which truly would have been noteworthy, but simply ordered it from a catalog and used it for what one would presume was its intended purpose.)

The kids go through a number of sweet-natured but stupid deceptions like that, trying to get their parents to talk. See, they think that if Don and Rebecca will just talk to each other, they’ll fall in love again.

And that’s where the movie, for as lame as it’s been the whole time, completely loses itself. It’s one thing to say that this particular marriage just needs a boost, and there are marriages that fall apart simply because the participants stop communicating. But the notion in “Who Gets the House?” is that ANY marriage can be saved that way. One of Rebecca’s divorced friends even says that she and her husband might not have split up if one of their kids had been sweet enough to fake them into talking to each other with a voice-simulator.

FFF has the right idea in making movies that are clean and family-friendly. They just need to find better scripts, actors and directors — and quit trying to get people to buy their stuff simply because the movies are wholesome. “Who Gets the House?” is as wholesome as they come, but that doesn’t stop it from being a piece of junk.

D- (; G.)

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