Lionsgate // 1987 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // April 14th, 2009
He was just Duckie in Pretty in Pink. Now he's filthy rich...and it's all his parents fault.
Watching the 1987 teen comedy Morgan Stewart's Coming Home for the first time in many, many years, I was surprised just how much of it I remembered. It was a movie I must have watched a lot back when it was in heavy rotation on HBO in the 1980s. Like Just One of the Guys and Teen Witch, it's a movie I've seen way more times than any sane person should, but it was always on. What was an impressionable 11-year-old to do? The only teen comedy ever helmed by the legendary Alan Smithee had a hold over me.
Yes, Morgan Stewart is one of those films credited to Alan Smithee, the pseudonym used when a director wants his or her name removed from a film. In the case of Morgan Stewart, it was two directors taking their names off: Paul Aaron and Terry Winsor, whose most recognizable film remains Morgan Stewart's Coming Home. No amount of digging on the interwebs could tell me exactly why they removed their names from the finished film, so I can only speculate as to what went wrong with the movie. It's mostly a mess, to be sure, but it's no worse than a lot of movies that people voluntarily attach their names to.
Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink) stars as the titular Morgan, a nice kid shipped off to private school at a young age so his parents could focus on a career in politics. When his father (Nicholas Pryor, Risky Business) is up for re-election in the Senate, suddenly his family requests that Morgan come home and live with them. That means obeying the rules of his ultra-strict mom (Vanessa Redgrave, Gods and Monsters), falling in love with his horror-geek counterpart (Viveka Davis, Cast Away) and foiling the plans of a scheming campaign manager (Paul Gleason, Die Hard).
The movie marks the first starring role for perpetual also-ran Cryer following his beloved supporting turn as Duckie in Pretty in Pink (even Morgan Stewart's tag line capitalizes on this fact). I've always found Cryer likable in a non-threatening way, despite his status as the poor man's Matthew Broderick, and there's not much in Morgan Stewart to change my mind. Though the movie's advertising would have you believe that it's a raucous comedy about a rebel looking to raise hell amidst the Washington elite, that couldn't be further from the truth. As played by Cryer, Morgan is just a nice kid who wishes his family paid him some more attention. Really, he's just Duckie without the romantic obsession and sense of style.
Everything about Morgan Stewart feels like it was made for TV, from the photography to the editing to the supporting performances. Despite being billed as a comedy, it's entirely unfunny, and the third act is hijacked by a ridiculous political blackmail plot (if Paul Gleason is in a movie, you know he's up to no good) before the movie wraps up with some still photos and narration that's a complete throwaway afterthought. It either never got finished or the directors just gave up. Maybe this is where Mr. Smithee took over.
And, yet, I wouldn't say the movie is among the worst of '80s comedies, probably because Cryer is just too nice and sincere to be hated; he's totally lacking in the too-cool snottiness of many of the decade's teen comedy protagonists (I'm looking at you, C. Thomas Howell). Plus, both Morgan and his girlfriend are obsessed with horror movies; their meet-cute is in line to get George Romero's autograph. Naturally, this only endears the characters to me more than it should. How can I completely hate a movie in which the young lovers' first date is to a late show of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?
Lionsgate is releasing Morgan Stewart's Coming Home as part of a series of '80s cable staples called "The Lost Collection." While I support the fact that movies like The Night Before and My Best Friend is a Vampire (other "lost" movies) are finally being released on DVD, I have to take issue with the fact that Lionsgate is just sort of dumping them. Morgan Stewart gets a full screen transfer (Really? In 2009?) that looks a lot like the cable broadcast version of the film. It's soft and colors look washed out, making it very apparent that not a lot of time or money went into the DVD transfer of the film. Once again, consumers are just expected to be happy to have the film at all and aren't supposed to care whether or not it's the best possible version. But it also begs the question: if this is the best treatment Lionsgate is going to give these "lost" films, why bother digging them up in the first place?
The 5.1 audio track helps make up for the video shortcomings somewhat, handling the dialogue and terrible '80s score just fine. The only extras included are the movie's theatrical trailer (again promising a film that's nothing like the actual movie) and a trivia track, which offers very sporadic facts just barely related to the film. It's entirely disposable.
I don't know if Morgan Stewart is worth taking your name off of, but it's still guilty of not being very good.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Trivia Track