Judge Dennis Prince reminds us all that there's nothing entertaining about a divorce—that is, unless we can all peek in on the personal proceedings via Court TV.
"You take them to the Pyramids and let Mitchell take them to the dentist."
Former golf pro James "J.P." Tannen (Jon Voight, Coming Home) is a successful guy. He's financially stable and emotionally strong, so why can't he get what he says he wants most from life—his three children? Estranged and divorced from his wife Kathleen (Millie Perkins, Wall Street), J.P. shows up to take the couple's three kids on a Mediterranean cruise. Despite his assertions that he's a "changed man," Kathleen resists J.P.'s appeals for more time with the children—his children. Their new stepfather, Mitchell (Richard Crenna, First Blood), seems to provide a more stable home life for the youngsters and has the requisite patience to raise them amid the usual familial fracases. J.P., even though he insists he can be a better dad than any stepfather, carries the stigma of being unprepared and unwilling to provide the sort of fathering the children need.
He manages to wrest the kids away from Kathleen and Mitchell and shows them the sights of Egypt, Athens, and Rome. Fathering, however, is no vacation and J.P. soon rediscovers why parenting wasn't his strongest trait. Just as he's ready to recant on his purported reformation, tragedy strikes and J.P. learns he has no choice but to make good on the promise he made to his kids' mom.
This CBS Pictures production checks in to ride the coattails of 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer, the dads-are-people-too box office smash that shone the light of sentimentality on the other participant in a divorce—the man. While Table for Five certainly can't compete with its fractured-family forebear, it does manage to provide insight into the other side of a separation, more or less. While the acting here is more than capable—with Jon Voight making the most of a sadly limited character role—the overall premise becomes a bit unbelievable when we're asked to pity this fellow who obviously was not fit to father his own children. We don't get enough backstory at the film's outset to understand the details of what caused the divorce (although J.P.'s inclination for fame and philandering is evident). Suspicion arises at the start when a husband tells his wife, "I'm a changed man." This sort of statement is usually followed by a swift backhand to the wife's jaw or a full-screen close-up of tell-tale lipstick on the collar. Still, the picture manages to draw the viewer in but the wrap-up is contrived and difficult to reconcile. As a side note, fans of 1987's The Monster Squad might recognize a young Robby Kiger, here in the role of youngest child, Truman-Paul.
For better or for worse, Paramount Home Video pulls Table for Five out of the back-title basement and presents it here in a crisp new anamorphic widescreen transfer. As with other catalog content, Paramount does little in the way of restoration here, the image exhibiting frequent elements of film dirt and damage for the duration. The detail level is rather high but that has also succeeded in delivering a steady state of medium-level film grain. The colors look a bit washed out, too, but that seems to be more an artifact of the '80s production design and not necessarily a fault of this particular digital authoring job. Oh, and as we've come to expect from Paramount's high-priced back-inventory releases, there are no extras on this disc.
The story here isn't terrifically bad, but it's not terrifically believable, either. Sadly, the truth of the events that surround real divorces would likely cause all our jaws to drop in disbelief, so why quibble with this tale? If you're looking for some good acting (and Jon Voight tops the bill here) and a bit of a manly sniffling, you may enjoy Table for Five. Only the well-adjusted, sensitive men need apply.
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