Picks and Pans Review: Misunderstood
Bad shmaltz is a crime against the audience, but when a shmaltzy film exploits kids, the offense is an unforgivable felony. A shamelessly manipulative tearjerker, Misunderstood depends on two young boys and one Prince Valiant haircut for its effects. The boys are the sons-cum-victims of a distant dad, who has just become a widower. In the course of the longest 90 minutes since Staying Alive, the father learns to love his black-sheep son, scold the little darling son, adjust to the loss of his wife and dodge falling objects. As the stone-hearted dad, Gene Hackman has none of the immediacy and economy he usually displays. Henry (E.T) Thomas fares slightly better as the maligned older son, but Huckleberry Fox, so touching as Debra Winger's younger son in Terms of Endearment, does most of his acting with his bangs. Thanks to a script that considers youngsters nothing more than screenwriters' pawns, Misunderstood is the cinematic equivalent of child abuse. (PG)
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