He's hysterical, immature and chicken. But hey, he's Dad.
Spencer Paley (Bob Saget) is a milquetoast who would rather take it easy than take a risk. His wife is afraid that their son Michael will end up the same way, so she gently urges Spencer to take his son Michael camping with the entire fourth grade class for a weekend. Camping is a run-down, third-rate experience at Catalina Island with bad food, bad activities, and enough unpleasantness that would shake up an experienced woodsman (Homer Simpson notwithstanding). Oh, and there's Chet (David Graf), a disturbed Vietnam vet/firefighter and his equally snotty son Chip. Will Spencer survive this weekend and come out a better man? Will Michael die of embarrassment? Will father and son come out with a bond stronger than ever?
If you don't know the answers to these questions, you haven't watched enough TV.
Before the feature began, the usual blue screen citing the film's MPAA rating appeared. According to this screen, Father and Scout has been rated PG for "mild fisticuffs." What exactly does fistcuffs mean? Webster's New World Dictionary of American English defines the term as "fighting with the fists." Well, your friendly neighborhood DVD critic is here to diffuse the Valentispeak. The only instance of mild fisticuffs occurs about seventy minutes into our film when Saget and Graf have the clumsily built to showdown. It doesn't last very long and will not traumatize your children. Jack Valenti would have been better off warning parents about how awful this film is. It reeks of "made-for-TV" blandness. A quick trip to the Internet Movie Database proved that I was correct; this film aired on ABC in 1995, no doubt to milk the last remaining drops of popularity from the then-dying Full House sitcom.
Father and Scout is categorized as a comedy, but there is not one laugh to be found in this "comedic" desert. The title is misleading as there are no scouts in this storyline. It would be too much to ask that they would have at least been clever enough to use that as a potential storyline. But, no, director Richard Michaels (Bewitched, The Brady Bunch) and his writers are satisfied to churn out the standard, predictable slop. It is so predictable that I kept wishing Endora would show up and use her magic to shake things up.
The film lacks the bravado and comic wit of Meatballs, the definitive camp flick. But it even lacks the energy and good-naturedness of another TV movie about camp, Poison Ivy. Those films had talented TV stars in the leads as does our film. Bob Saget is not without talent, having made a dent on the stand-up circuit before hitting fame as Danny Tanner on Full House. He makes a game attempt to liven up the dreary proceedings with some clever dialogue and ad-libs, but unfortunately for him, not even those can fix the film's overall bad taste.
New Line gives us a full frame transfer that is acceptable without being remarkable. It looks clean, but rather sterile and ordinary. Colors aren't all that bold and the film's few night scenes suspiciously look like they were shot "day for night…".and badly, I might add.
Audio is the standard Dolby Digital 2.0 mono job that sounds clean and nothing more. The studio information claims it is stereo, but my player revealed it was mono. You will have to keep adjusting your sound equipment accordingly since some dialogue spots are mixed far too low for normal ears. Your dog will love it, though.
Extras are limited to a few theatrical trailers for other New Line releases and an interactive game. Your child is given 15 New Line film titles and must match the title with the film clip provided. Let me tell you, if a film buff like me failed miserably at this game, how is a novice viewer going to handle it?
I do not recommend Father and Scout as a purchase. However, young boys will love it. My 12-year-old brother did when we watched it together. So, for that demographic, a rental is a very good idea, but adults, bring along a good, thick book because you'll need it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• "Pick that Flick" Interactive Game
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