Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"Hey, what are we - the Schmaltz family?"

In 1996 someone cruelly chose to screen this film on a flight I was taking.

That's right, after all the money that each of us had paid for our seats, they showed us a sequel, knowing full well that most of the passengers would never have seen the preceding chapter.

Worse, being a comedy about childbirth, this was arguably a chick flick, and I dare suppose that roughly half of us on the flight would have been male. So much for aiming to entertain us.

It's uphill work watching a film about two families who you don't know having a baby. Without much introduction to the characters, there's little reason to care. At one point Martin Short shows-up to great reaction, and the absence of a reason for the camera to dwell upon him so just feels like the editor went to sleep at that point.

So 13 years later I caught up on the preceding film, and however else I felt about it, I at least understood why I should care about the characters.

Armed with this new empathy, tonight I gave the sequel a second chance, but I'm afraid that it still fell flat on me.

Steve Martin - always a brilliant comedy performer - is still impossible to identify with as George. There is nothing unexpected about a baby, and yet somehow it still comes as a complete shock to him that his married daughter is now pregnant. Then he suddenly sells his house without telling his wife. Then he does tell her, but in front of everyone at a family get-together. Just how are we supposed to imagine ourselves in this guy's shoes?

Diane Keaton as the long-suffering "straight man" wife takes this development remarkably well. However, after trying to drive home to him how advanced in years he now is, when he gives in and agrees, she kicks him out of the house. So how is anyone supposed to identify with her?

We really need to like these characters, before we will laugh with them, and care about them.

It's never explained how, but since the first film George has somehow managed to pay off the sky-high debt that he was left in. However because this one is a sequel, they just have to have him run up an even more enormous one, literally in excess of $100,000. About this, his wife has nothing to say. If the first movie had ended with him massively in debt, then following this one he must surely go to prison.

Even the film's narration has had little enough thought put into it that it begins just after the birth of his second daughter, but presently overtakes this date and just keeps on going.

To the movie's credit, despite some sixteen years having passed since I last saw it, I have remembered the plot pretty clearly, which given how muddy any film becomes on a distant TV hanging from the ceiling at cabin altitude, is certainly impressive.

The best way to watch this film though, and fix all these plot problems, might just be to simply turn the sound off and make up your own dialogue.

Again much like on an aircraft.

Hmm, why those two babies must both be aged about 16 years old now. Why maybe they could make a third film in which they each meet someone and get engaged, and have a double… mmnah.

(available here)


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