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Case Number 03139

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Curly Sue

Warner Bros. // 1991 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 30th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

If cuteness could be measured, Curly Sue would be Texas.

Opening Statement

So, I have this theory. I think that most movies would be better of if we put the words "that wacky" before the title. "That Wacky Matrix." "That Wacky Jurassic Park." "That Wacky Gladiator." See? Doesn't it make you think you'll have a great time at the movies with names like that? So, I know what you're thinking—what the heck does this have to do with my review of Curly Sue? Honestly? Not a whole lot. I've just always wanted to put that into print.

For those of you still with me, writer/director John Hughes' Curly Sue has finally been released on DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

Chicago can be a tough town. Just ask Bill Dancer (James Belushi, Mr. Destiny), a homeless vagabond who's just barely scraping by. Times are tough for Bill and Curly Sue (Alisan Porter, Parenthood), a young girl that Bill's raised since she was just an infant. The two roam the streets using their wits to scam food and shelter off of unsuspecting citizens. But everything is about to change when they run into—quite literally—successful attorney Grey Ellison (Kelly Lynch, Drugstore Cowboy). After she hits Bill with her car (for a second time), Grey allows them to stay at her home while Bill recuperates. This doesn't sit well with Grey's snotty, vindictive boyfriend (John Getz, Men at Work) who has plans of his own for Bill and Curly Sue. When Curly Sue is suddenly in danger of bring taken away from Bill, Grey steps in (with a little help from Hollywood magic) to make sure that love truly conquers all.

The Evidence

Curly Sue is easily one of writer/director John Hughes' most syrupy films to date. First of all, I'm always leery of any movie that stars a child actor as its lead. Even worse is when the kid is so cute that they seem to have been hatched as the love child between the Care Bears and My Little Pony. This time around we get Alisan Porter, a girl so adorable that at best guess even her vomit smells like blueberries. Curly Sue bounds from one cute scene to the next, never once pausing to breathe in reality. The story is a complete and utter fantasy—there is no way on God's green Earth that any of this could have happened. My guess is that there are two kinds of viewers for a film like Curly Sue: those who can suspend reality and go with it, and those who can't. Guess which camp I'm staked in?

I wish that I could have liked Curly Sue more than I did. It has a decent cast (I like James Belushi), a winning director (who admittedly is past his prime), and a cute-as-a-button child star. And yet…I just couldn't get into the groove. Belushi plays his usual scruffy self, a con artist with a heart of gold. Kelly Lynch has only two degrees of emotion: cold hearted bitch and fuzzy-wuzzy doe-eyes. While Hughes has never been one for subtlety, Curly Sue seems especially hard up for laughs. There are only so many times that I can watch a man get punched in the face, slapped by a girl, or slammed against a van/closet door/concrete pillar/2x4. Since the success of Hughes' Home Alone, the director has felt the need to include far too much slapstick in his movies. Ah, how I long for the days of his great writing in movies like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.

There isn't not a whole lot left to say about a movie like Curly Sue. If you like watching kids act overly sentimental, and enjoy love stories that could only take place in the mind of Fabio, Curly Sue is your kind of flick. As a little family movie it stands on its own, but as a Hughes classic it's been relegated to the bottom of the list.

Curly Sue is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TV sets. Once again Warner has done a fine job of making sure the print is clean and clear of any major defects or flaws. Though a few imperfections show up from time to time—including a smidgen of edge enhancement—overall this is a nice looking transfer. The colors and black levels are all solid and well defined with very even flesh tones. Hughes fans will be happy to see Curly Sue in its original widescreen format and in nice shape.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround in English and French. Unlike the video portions of this disc, the soundtrack isn't all that great. While it doesn't suck (the dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly heard), generally speaking there isn't a whole lot to this mix. Directional effects and surround sounds are mostly lacking, producing a very front heavy experience. Then again, this is an early 1990s comedy, so what you get in the way of sound should be enough. Also included on this disc are Dolby 1.0 Mono soundtracks in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

Only two substantial extra features have been included on this disc. The first is a video introduction by star Alisan Porter (now in her late teens/early 20s). The intro is a fluffy little piece that lasts only a few minutes. The second feature is a commentary track by Porter. Boooooring. This track had me interested for all of three minutes, then I was ready to turn it off. While Porter seems like a sweet girl, she spends much of the time watching the film silently. What information she does share is fairly bland ("I had fun in this scene" is typical of her comments). The fact is that I don't blame her—how much can a very young child actor recall from a shoot that happened over 12 years ago? This track is really designed for hardcore fans of the film, and that's about it.

Also included on this disc are a few short filmographies on Belushi, Porter, Lynch and Hughes, as well as a theatrical trailer for the film.

Closing Statement

This was all a bit too gooey for my tastes. Hughes has made some classic comedies (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Weird Science) and he's also penned some real stinkers (Dutch, anyone?). If you're in the mood to watch inoffensive fluff (unless you consider a man getting kicked in the yam sack offensive), Curly Sue is your kinda flick. Otherwise, move along folks…there's nothing to see here…

The Verdict

Oh waiter, I'll have the Curly Sue cheese ball sandwich, please…

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 82
Extras: 72
Acting: 75
Story: 61
Judgment: 63

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• All Ages

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track by Actress Alisan Porter
• Introduction by Alisan Porter
• Cast and Crew Filmographies
• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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