Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees would like Moo Shu Chicken, Egg Drop Soup, and a chance to rewrite this Doris Day movie.
Keeping this family together isn't child's play!
Frankly, I expected worse. Between its excruciating title and its status as Doris Day's last big-screen role, With Six You Get Eggroll struck me as a likely candidate for obscurity. In fact, it's a pleasant, intelligent film…or at least three-quarters of one.
Day plays Abby McClure, the self-confident manager of—I'm not making this up—a construction company. Yes, she even strides around in coveralls and a hard hat, looking efficient and capable. Her right-hand man is her teenaged son, Flip (John Findlater), and while they are at work her two other boys are looked after by her friend and maid, Molly (Alice Ghostley, Grease). Molly persists in trying to fix up the single Abby with a man, but not until Jake Iverson's name comes up does Abby show any interest in reentering the dating scene. Although they get off to a rocky start at a chaotic dinner party, Abby and Jake (Brian Keith, The Parent Trap ) soon find themselves making excuses to meet at the local drive-in for a late-night cup of coffee. Their courtship is complicated not only by the jealous Flip but also by Jake's teenaged daughter, Stacy (Barbara Hershey, Beaches), who is fiercely possessive of her father. The only solution seems to be to take the leap and get married—and then, through patience, propinquity, and parenting skills, force the kids to reconcile themselves to their new family situation.
For most of its running time, With Six You Get Eggroll (I really detest that title) is a smart, realistic story of two modern adults who have to try to balance their kids' needs with their own. There are one or two typical movie misunderstandings to draw out their courtship, as when Abby sees Jake dancing with a "young chick" and draws the wrong conclusion (it's actually his daughter). But their problems are real-life ones, and it's refreshing to see a big-screen comedy that is so rooted in reality rather than manufactured plot devices. I wondered what kind of screen couple Day and Keith would make, but they complement each other well: Both seem grounded, yet possess the sense of humor crucial to the parents of teenagers, and they're experienced enough in life and love to be able to get on with their relationship with a minimum of dithering and fuss. The movie is reticent about whether they are divorced or widowed, but their past is less important than their present as still-sexy single parents.
Indeed, the film is so realistic that its comedy sometimes suffered, at least for me. Flip and Stacy are authentic teenagers—self-centered, mulish, and surly—and I was more outraged than amused by their interference in their parents' love lives. Here again, though, the script resolves the situation with intelligence. Abby initially takes a patient and understanding approach to the territorial Stacy, but when this has little effect, she wises up and uses psychology: If Stacy's so determined to be the woman in her dad's life, Abby tells her, she can be—but it means doing all the housework, shopping, and cooking. Stacy comes around after that and develops new appreciation for her stepmother, and their rapprochement is both sweet and satisfying.
But then comes the big blunder. After establishing itself as a solid family film about real-life issues, the film seems to smack itself on the forehead and exclaim: "Hey! This is a comedy, for gosh sakes! We gotta have the big comedy finish!" So our smart, grown-up protagonists are thrown into an escalating sequence of painfully "zany" situations. After an unconvincing spat, Jake ends up roaming the streets in his undershorts, clutching a teddy bear, and has to borrow an ill-fitting spare uniform from surly drive-in employee Herbie Fleck (George Carlin, unrecognizable in his film debut). Abby acquires a motorcycle escort of hippies, led by Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H), and sets off in hot pursuit, only to end up being hauled in to a police station in her nightgown after an encounter with a chicken truck. And so forth. If you didn't stop reading after the word "hippies," you get credit for tenacity—which is exactly what you'll need to see this film through its woeful final act. It's a real disappointment that the film changes gears in this manner, as if it didn't trust its own intelligence and the warm, charismatic performances by Day and Keith to do the job without "help" from some goofy set pieces. Even more unfortunate is that the hippies date the film sadly; outside of the teenaged characters' slang, there's little else here that doesn't age gracefully.
As with most entries in its budget line, Paramount gives us no extras but an attractive transfer: Colors are candy-bright, the picture is sharp and clean except for some speckling, and the widescreen transfer gives us the full visual experience. The surround audio mix is pleasingly vigorous, especially the songs performed by the Grassroots. For a barebones budget release, this is quite respectable. If you can overlook the foolishness of the film's final act, With Six You Get Eggroll is pleasant entertainment—not the superlative finish to Day's long and successful big-screen career that one would like, but far from a disgrace.
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