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.

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