Sony // 1989 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // May 21st, 2004
On the long-running sitcom Who's the Boss, Tony Danza played Tony, a kind-hearted but distraught single father dealing with a daughter on the cusp of womanhood. In She's Out of Control, Tony Danza reveals another side of himself as a kind-hearted but distraught single father dealing with a daughter on the cusp of womanhood. This time, his name is Doug.
Radio station manager Doug Simpson (Tony Danza, Going Ape!) picks the same weekend to go out of town on business as his daughter Katie (Ami Dolenz, Can't Buy Me Love) does to shed her nerdy image. With the help of Doug's girlfriend Janet (Catherine Hicks, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), Katie ditches her braces, Urkel glasses, wardrobe, and hairstyle to reinvent herself as the teen queen she has always wanted to be. When he returns, the sudden transformation staggers Doug. Unable to deal with the sudden barrage of phone calls and dates, Doug visits psychiatrist Dr. Fishbinder (Wallace Shawn, Clueless). With his help, Doug adjusts to Katie's stream of boyfriends, including black leather-clad musician Joey (Dana Ashbrook, Ghost Dad) and sleazy preppy Timothy (Matthew Perry, Friends). When he learns that Timothy intends to take Katie to the prom, Doug is prepared to go to any length to prevent her from giving away her virginity like so much Clearasil.
She's Out of Control is pretty much a "very special" 90-minute episode of Who's the Boss with special guest stars. Encouraging heart-to-heart talks and hugs (awww!) as a means of solving all problems, She's Out of Control is seldom as naughty as its title suggests, and really isn't that much different from anything in your average prime-time lineup circa 1987.
In a perfect world, She's Out of Control would be required viewing for sitcom actors considering making the leap to film. Although successful transitions have been made, a TV performer who lazily recreates the character making them famous every Thursday night at 8:30 predictably flounders on the big screen. That's the case here with Danza, who mistakenly relies on the big gestures, emotional extremes, and broad comedy that play so well on TV. On film, it feels like he is constantly trying to distract you from the fact that his "well meaning single father" shtick is wafer thin. That's also the case with more recent movies starring sitcom actors playing extensions of their TV selves; they often appear entirely out of their depth. Perhaps Fran Drescher's The Beautician and the Beast, Roseanne Barr's She Devil, and even catastrophes like Ray Romano's Welcome to Mooseport could all have been avoided had this lesson been taken to heart by studio execs.
You can't fault director Stan Dragoti (Mr. Mom) for at least trying to shape this mediocre material with a unique look and feel. He succeeds more often than not, but just when the film's polished sheen convinces you that you're watching something better than a generic TV movie-of-the-week, the casting and the script bring you crashing back to reality. A parade of past, present, and future TV actors are here, offered up as one-note stereotypes and then tossed aside like one of Mona's old boyfriends. Aside from the tortured rebel, wacky DJ, and bratty sister, Matthew Perry is outstandingly bad as Katie's prom date; first dancing suggestively with the 15-year-old and then slapping high fives as she gets into his rented limo.
One of the few characters with potential is Doug's girlfriend Janet, as played by Catherine Hicks. After she helps instigate Katie's change, Janet is set up to be the surrogate mother of the confused teen -- that is, until the movie seemingly forgets about her for the last half of the film.
Not only is the basic trajectory of each scene obvious, but whole lines of dialogue are easily predictable. Whether Doug's vintage car has stalled on the railroad tracks or Janet's father is mirroring Doug's overprotective mind-set, She's Out of Control always goes for the tried and true. When obvious isn't enough, the film has no reservations about overplaying its hand. If montages of Doug taking dozens of phone messages and opening the door to oodles of potential boyfriends wasn't enough for you to understand that Katie has undergone a change, several slow-motion scenes of his daughter walking toward the camera (set to crooning 1950s rock-and-roll songs) hammer home the point home like a Louisville Slugger to the temple.
Perhaps the most reprehensible aspect of this film is that it implies that surface beauty is the only quality that matters. Then again I suppose that's the perfect message for an empty shell of a film. She's Out of Control is unable to transcend its TV roots, and while the film certainly isn't among the worst I've ever seen, it is hopelessly mired in sitcom clichés. Of course, that will probably work for some audiences, but for me, a dressed up television comedy just doesn't cut it as a film.
Both the transfer and the sound are pretty average on this release. The image seems soft, with grain and artifacts cropping up now and again -- nothing too distracting, though. A no-nonsense stereo soundtrack also gets the job done.
No extras have been included, not even a trailer.
All my problems with She's Out of Control aside, having grown up in the 1980s, I'm not immune to the occasional nostalgic charms of this film. I noted a monster truck, Tony saying "It's so funny I forgot to laugh," a giant plastic Swatch watch on Katie's wall, skateboarding on the dance floor at a club (!), a Flashdance nod, and bonus cameos by Todd Bridges (Diff'rent Strokes) and Dustin Diamond (Saved By the Bell). Awesome!
Not bad enough to hate and not good enough to like, She's Out of Control is a tame 1980s teen comedy that makes for a completely unremarkable time waster. With no special features and limited replay value, a rental should suffice for those with fond memories of watching the film as young teenagers.
Tony Danza is hereby restrained from playing any character named "Tony" in the future. Columbia TriStar is ordered to reissue this DVD broken into three 30-minute chapters, so we can sneak a viewing in between Full House and Growing Pains reruns.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG