She’s Out of Control

December 20, 2010

On a recent “Siskel & Ebert,” Gene and Roger stopped their Punch ‘n’ Judy routine long enough to give special attention to a new film called She’s Out of Control. Siskel (the bald guy) said that during the screening of this movie, he actually considered quitting his job as a film critic. It was that bad.

Ebert (the big guy) noted that the moviemakers had robbed him of two hours of his life. “They did us a wrong that can never be righted,” he said to the camera. Siskel summed things up by describing the film as “one of the worst experiences of our professional lives.”

Wow. Can a movie be that bad? Oh, sure. She’s Out of Control is not appreciably worse than a dozen other movies released in the last 12 months, but it’s bad. Ordinarily, I would expect a movie like this to land directly in the bargain bin at the video store, but actually releasing it in theaters provides some advertising, free reviews (on the premise that there is no bad publicity), and brings its star out on the interview circuit.

The star is one-note Tony Danza, who plays a radio executive whose plain-Jane daughter (Ami Dolenz, daughter of Monkee Mickey Dolenz) suddenly blossoms into a hot babe. She is all of 15 years old, so Danza is distressed by the attention of a stream of pimply young suitors.

The movie, which means to be a comedy, comes close to suggesting that there’s something creepy about Danza’s own close-eyed attention to his daughter. In one beach scene he watches her emerge from the surf as her body jiggles and jumps, all in leering slow motion. Then he attacks the men who are, as he is, watching her. Weird.

In Danza’s frenzy to control the situation, he sees a psychiatrist (Wallace Shawn) who has written a step-by-step self-help book for fathers in exactly this situation. Meanwhile, Danza proposes to his girlfriend (screechy Catherine Hicks) thinking it might bring his daughter back.

Just about everything flops.

Tony Danza is a TV star who ought to know his limits by now. And Siskel and Ebert are still in their jobs, no thanks to this movie.

First published in the Herald, April 29, 1989

The thing I remember about this disaster is that it was part of a package of films released around this time by Weintraub Entertainment Group, a distributor bearing the name of longtime showbiz player Jerry Weintraub. (I think they’d picked up Luc Besson’s Big Blue for stateside release, too.) And the publicist for the movie got me to show up at the Sorrento Hotel lounge and sit with a Weintraub representative as he pitched their exciting new slate. This is one of the reasons I never, ever do that kind of thing. It was the sort of non-event that had me thinking the sorts of existentially urgent thoughts that gripped Gene Siskel while he was watching this movie: why am I here? How can I get out of this? What do I need to change in my life to have this never happen again?

Looking at how short this review is and how dangling the sentence “Just about everything flops” is, I wonder whether this review was shortened by an editor. I don’t think there was much else to say. Today, seeing Catherine Hicks’s name again gives me a chill, and looking through the credits of the film, I see it did have Matthew Perry in a supporting role pre-“Friends,” which makes me halfway curious to see what he did. But that’ll never happen.