If it hadn't been for the success of "The Wedding Singer" and the resultant upswing in Drew Barrymore's career, "Home Fries," an off-beat black comedy with an unexplainable title, wouldn't have had much of a chance of finding an audience. But actually, the film was completed before "The Wedding Singer" and floated in limbo until its recent release, with an initial plan to ship it directly to video. And that might not have been a bad idea.
Because of "The Wedding Singer," as well as Barrymore's other fairly successful romantic turn in "Ever After," Warner Bros. has marketed the film as a romantic comedy. But the teen-age girls the marketers are aiming for will be in for a shock with this dark ensemble comedy.
Sally (Barrymore) is a pregnant drive-through worker at the Burger-Matic burger chain. Shortly after her older, married lover, who is the father of her baby, drives through the order line to let her know that he has told his wife about their affair, his stepsons set out to literally scare him to death. Chasing him in a helicopter, brothers Dorian (Luke Wilson) and Angus (Jake Busey) fire rounds of blanks at their cardio-challenged stepfather, provoking a heart-attack.
Communicating via headset in the helicopter, the brothers radio waves are overheard on the headsets at the Burger-Matic. Hothead Angus forces Dorian to get a job at Burger-Matic to find out how much they know about the incident. It's not long before Dorian takes a hankering to big-bellied Sally.
Meanwhile, the manipulative mama (a wonderful Catherine O'Hara) eggs her sons on to find out the identity of her husband's secret mistress and knock her off as well.
Writer Vince Gilligan (a prime player in the development of "The X-Files") doles out several darkly funny situations, most involving O'Hara, but he trips up greatly on the absurd plot premise that hangs on the headset fiasco.
Barrymore and Wilson, although an attractive couple, find very little chemistry with each other, leaving the romantic angle of the film to fall extremely flat.
Busey (son of Gary Busey) and O'Hara ultimately end up stealing the film from the rest of the cast. Their broad characterizations seem to be much more in line with the tone director Dean Parisot was trying to establish.
It's doubtful that "Home Fries" will linger in theaters very long before heading back on its original course to home video.
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