Picks and Pans Review: And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird

updated 12/02/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/02/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Joshua Miller, Edan Gross

How's this for a subtitle: "And you think this movie is derivative." How derivative? Let's not mention names, but the initials are E.T.

Josh (Miller) and Max (Gross) are mourning the loss of their father. Matthew, an inventor who committed suicide two years earlier. Inventors themselves, they have built a short, cute, highly complicated robot called Newman. While playing telephone-to-heaven at a Halloween party, Josh manages to contact his dad (Alan Thicke), who returns to Earth, lakes up residence in Newman's casing and boasts of his friendships with Napoleon and Einstein. Tunis out Matthew didn't commit suicide at all; he was trying to dodge a skunk when his car went over a cliff. Now is his chance to make up for the inattentiveness that marked his time on earth.

He plays Frisbee with his sons ("I've got good hands, considering that they're aluminum"), rumbas with his wife (Marcia Strassman), gives her a foot massage and contrives to ensure the family's financial future. While Miller and Cross are fine, natural performers, the script, which has a subplot involving a nosy television reporter and a nefarious father-son bully team, is as metallic as Newman's frame. (PC)

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