Carpool

Carpool. Monarchy Enterprises 1996.

Before watching the movie:

Sometimes it is still possible to find something random among streaming options. The 90s are about as far back as that goes anymore, but it’s not impossible.

A bank robber hijacks a family in a minivan, and hijinks ensue. It’s going to be fun to see where this goes.

After watching the movie:

Daniel Miller, an ad executive who never has time for his family, is forced to drive his sons’ school carpool because his wife is sick, despite needing to be at work early for the big presentation. Franklin Laszlo’s family carnival business has fallen on hard times and he’s decided to rob a bank in order to be able to pay his sideshow cast, but accidentally gets mixed up in someone else’s grocery store robbery while waiting for the bank to open. As Franklin holds the robbers at gunpoint, the clerk hands him the money, and plainclothes Detective Erdman only sees Franklin holding a gun and a bag of money, so he attempts to arrest Franklin. Franklin, keeping the money, grabs a customer as a hostage to get out, and that customer is Daniel, getting donuts for the kids. With Franklin’s truck blocked in, he decides to take Daniel’s van, not realizing it’s full of kids until it’s too late. But the kids love Franklin, Franklin is fun. And Franklin can’t let Daniel go to work because he needs a hostage and won’t involve the kids more than he has to. So they’re all on the run from the police together, and the thwarted robbers want their money back.

I’m surprised to see that this had a strong negative reaction when it came out. It’s hardly great cinema, but it’s not trash, or even merely mediocre. Aside from the workaholic dad learning to value his family theme, it’s not worn out. Tom Arnold is fun and charismatic and carries the movie. His character cheerfully admitting that he’s the bad guy and the kids shouldn’t listen to him even as they’re telling Daniel they side with Franklin sums up the whole movie.

For most of the movie, I didn’t notice the score. But when I did, mainly in the opening titles and climax, I didn’t like it. The musical style is a little cliché, but it wouldn’t have sounded as bad if it wasn’t performed by tinny synthesizers simulating an orchestra. Did they spend all the music budget on getting Tom Arnold?

On the other side of technical critique, I liked the paint work for when they paint the van purple with spray-in hair dye. It looks unevenly sprayed on, only a little better than I think would be realistic. The only thing I could ask for would be to let the original color be revealed in progressively more places as the van scrapes against things, but that would be a nightmare for maintaining continuity, so I don’t blame them for not doing that.

This is just a bit of fun with Tom Arnold, a van full of kids, and a police chase. People seem to not like Tom Arnold in general, but I don’t know why. Maybe he was just in too many things for a while and people felt like he was being pushed at them unjustifiably. But in terms of this movie, this is just a romp with a loveable lead, a double act, and some idiosyncratic kids for flavor.

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