Face/Off

Before watching the movie:

Face/Off. Paramount Pictures 1997.

My strongest memory of this movie being in the world was the giant poster on the side of a building at King’s Island for years. I don’t think it had anything to do with anything at the park, it was just a 50-foot poster nobody bothered to take down across the three to five years my visits were spread across. (Update: apparently they named their head to head roller coaster Face/Off, until Paramount sold the park and the new owner debranded it. I didn’t ride many of the coasters there.)

I later learned the movie is about a good guy and a bad guy trading faces for… reasons, don’t think too much about it. I’m not sure which actor starts as which character, because of course both play both. I’ve heard that Cage as the terrorist gets eccentrically creepy in the way he’s famous for now.

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Larger Than Life

Larger Than Life. United Artists 1996.

Before watching the movie:

At first I thought I might have been aware of this movie when it came out, but I think I was thinking of the live action scenes from Osmosis Jones, in which Murray plays a zookeeper who seems to mainly scoop elephant droppings and other low tier jobs. Here, however, he’s inherited an elephant from his estranged circus performer father.

A road movie/buddy comedy with an elephant is a really random mix that definitely creates funny moments, but how does someone come up with an idea like that?

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Kazaam

Kazaam. Touchstone Pictures 1996.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure if anyone else felt this way, but at the time that this and Space Jam came out, it seemed to me like you were either for one kids’ movie starring a basketball player or the other, and while I did get a Kazaam toy from whatever restaurant had the promotion, Space Jam had Looney Toons and space aliens, so it was no contest which one I went to see.

This is also the subject of a modern Mandela Effect misremembering, as a lot of people, myself included, started to remember the existence of a movie starring Sinbad as a genie named Shazam instead of Shaq as a genie named Kazaam. Which is strange that I fell into that too, because as I said above, I definitely remembered that it starred a basketball player, and Sinbad is a comedian.

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Kindergarten Cop

Kindergarten Cop. Imagine Entertainment 1990

Before watching the movie:

I feel like this is the peak of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bankability. He went from a bodybuilder of little note outside the body building circuit to a breakout action star overnight, and now a few years later, he’s in a family-ish comedy about how he’s out of his element and toddlers are too much for him to handle.

I’m expecting a fun, snap-together vehicle comedy. Nothing that breaks ground, but fun worth coming back to. It seems to have stood out among his comedies as one people love.

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It Takes Two

It Takes Two. Dualstar Productions 1995.

Before watching the movie:

I dimly remember watching Full House and I remember a lot better having an interest in the Olsens’ Dualstar work when I was young. I won a couple of their detective series videos in a contest I think I got a third just because I liked the series, and I saw others without owning them. I know I saw a few of their movies, but not as much of their filmography as I expected looks familiar.

It’s not surprising to see identical siblings (or close enough in their case) build a career in show business out of their similarity, but I can’t think of another pair that built a brand (or at least had a brand built around them) the way Mary-Kate and Ashley did. While they have plenty of productions that demonstrate it’s possible to create a vehicle for them without banking on their identicality, this one is a “Prince and the Pauper” story, apparently with a bit of The Parent Trap thrown in (I always wondered why the Parent Trap remake had Lindsay Lohan in a dual role instead of getting still-bankable real twins).

After watching the movie:

Amanda Lemmon has spent the first ten years of her life in an orphanage. Alyssa Callaway has spent her whole life raised by her wealthy father Roger, their butler Vincenzo, and her boarding school. They happen to look uncannily alike. Amanda is about to be adopted by “orphan collectors” the Butkises, but would much rather be adopted by her social worker Diane. Alyssa returns from her boarding school for the summer to learn that her father will be marrying Clarice, selling the lovely mansion, sending Alyssa to a school in Europe forever, all the standard golddigging wicked stepparent stuff, prompting Alyssa to formally Run Away in protest, not long before Amanda gets dared into ringing the bell at the “haunted” mansion across the lake, and they promptly get mistaken for each other. Quickly overwhelmed by being swept into another life, they both run off into the forest and find each other. Amanda and Alyssa decide to spend a day in each other’s lives, and quickly find that Diane and Roger would be perfect for each other, and setting them up together would take away both their problems.

The cartoonish evil of Clarice is saturated in tropes. There’s no relationship between her and Roger at all, her first scene without Roger has her talking openly about her golddigging plans so that Alyssa and the audience can hear them, and there’s a major rush into the wedding. All of those things come up a lot in romantic comedy plots, especially where children are involved. When you make the fiancee that needs to be dumped so unambiguously villainous, there’s no room for any justification for why they’re together in the first place. Roger makes some comments about “this family needs a mother”, but if that’s the only qualification, there are doubtless many better candidates in his life.

We learn that Roger made his money “accidentally”, by buying the frequency band that cell phones use back when it was a cool, futuristic idea that would never take off. Where did he get the money to buy up radio frequencies? Never mentioned. Just something that anybody with dumb luck can do, I guess.

I really do like Diane and Roger together, and there’s some great humor from the kids at camp. I would’ve liked to see more involvement from the other kids once the plot to get them together was under way. This may have started from a “rich kid/poor kid switch places like Twain” place, but it quickly gets away from that and really, for me, Alyssa and Amanda being each other’s doppelganger was one of the least interesting parts of the story.

I don’t mind a story being by the numbers, but some of the numbers this hits are lazy and worn out to the point that it took me out of the story. It’s mostly just a fun good time with the Olsens, Steve Guttenberg, and Kirstie Alley, and that’s all it’s trying to be. And it’s for kids, so it doesn’t have as much of a need to innovate.

Stargate

Stargate. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I can probably count on one hand the number of episodes of Stargate: SG-1 I’ve seen, and still have room for the number of episodes of Stargate: Andromeda and Stargate Universe. I think there are two other series now? It was the Star franchise I cared least about.

So Stargate and the Stargates have always been a thing that the show has expected viewers to know about in everything I’ve seen. I’m interested in seeing how the concept is introduced for the very first time, from the very beginning.

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Movies of My Yesterdays: Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves

I usually avoid sequels here, and yes, it’s direct to video, but this one means more to me than the original Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I don’t remember if it’s the one I saw first, but it’s the one I saw most back then. I knew it was a sequel to “Kids”, but at first I didn’t realize that there was another one in between the two (Honey, I Blew Up The Kid, which is about the toddler getting bigger and bigger until it gets into “Attack of the 50-foot _____” territory).

This one, and the TV series that apparently came out the same year, but doesn’t seem to be related, came to me right at the time when I was not only in a period of discovering my own new favorites for what seemed like the first time, but also particularly interested in invention, and so stories starring the wacky tinkerer Wayne Szalinski and his quirky inventions especially appealed to me.

Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. Walt Disney Pictures 1997.

Years after making his name with the Shrink Machine, Wayne Szalinski has founded Szalinski Labs, a “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” R&D company, which he operates as the president of and his brother Gordon heads development projects for. Wayne’s son Adam has no interest in Wayne’s passion for science and would much rather go to baseball camp instead of the math summer camp Wayne has picked out for him. The family is preparing for a weekend where Wayne and Gordon’s wives Diane and Patti go on a vacation and Gordon as well as his and Patti’s kids Jenny and Mitch will be staying with Wayne and Adam. Just as the weekend begins, Wayne has Gordon help him haul a gigantic tiki sculpture that Diane hates up to the attic, where he intends to use the Shrink Machine one last time before it goes to the Smithsonian to shrink it to pocket size. But a mishap with the machine also shrinks Wayne and Gordon, and soon after, Diane and Patti get shrunk too. Returning from an errand to find no parents in the house, the kids come to the obvious conclusion: house party.

Much like Home Alone 2, I think the success of this movie comes from delivering more of what made the original interesting. As I recall, “Kids” is mostly about the shrunken kids spending the weekend crossing the backyard, which is now a harsh jungle from their perspective. While that story was more about surviving in unforgiving nature, this story is set entirely in the house, making even more familiar household objects into an alien landscape for the parents to navigate. There’s also the added angle that the parents are able to observe what their kids are doing when they think they’re unsupervised, and so the dramatic irony is much richer than “where are the missing kids? Right out the back door!”

Of course in the third act, after things get too out of hand for the kids, they start to display the ways in which they were raised right after all. It’s a pretty standard trope, especially for Adam having some of Wayne’s science knowledge rub off on him after all, but I’m impressed now that the culmination of Jenny’s story is that when the boy she has a crush on gets her alone and forces a kiss on her, she pushes him away and tells him off for not asking. For 1997, that seems like a rare storytelling choice.

I have no complaints about the effects. There’s some things that I can’t tell if it’s good puppetry or very good CGI, but considering that it’s the late 90s and a direct to video budget, it’s probably puppetry. Sometimes the greenscreen compositing is a little obvious, but that’s hardly ever a solved problem even today, and it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the story that they basically have a choice between decent compositing and very good but obvious oversize sets. When dealing with the world on a much smaller scale, I’m not sure it’s possible to make things look real, because it will either be more detailed than we’re used to or less detailed than we expect.

This is still a lot of fun for a direct to video family movie. It’s aged incredibly well and possibly aside from Gordon and Mitch’s actors seeming like Wayne Knight and Jonathan Taylor Thomas stand-ins, it feels almost timeless. It’s nice to watch a movie with nostalgia value and not end up disillusioned.