Curly Sue (1991)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Curly Sue</strong> (1991)

(On TV, February 2019) As much as John Hugues dominated the 1980s comedy landscape, his decline in the 1990s was rapid and definitive. Curly Sue earns a special spot in his filmography by being the last movie he ever directed, after which he focused on producing and screenwriting before gradually retiring from Hollywood. It’s not exactly a high note on which to stop, but you don’t have to squint to find the Hugues touch even in the middle of a strictly formulaic product. From the moment we understand the dynamic between the main characters (a middle-aged man and a young girl as a con-artist team) and meet the missing part of the triangle, there’s not a whole lot left for the script but to go through the motions of mawkish sentimentalism. But Curly Sue’s workable premise is hampered with execution issues. The film aims much younger than it should, and the caricatures in lieu of characters are fit to frustrate adult watchers. (Family films aren’t particularly good if the whole family doesn’t enjoy them.) The needlessly violent slapstick doesn’t help in grounding the weak result. In terms of actors, the result is a mixed bag. Much depends on the young Alisan Porter in the title role and she is fortunately up to the task. The same can be said of Kelly Lynch as a wealthy divorce lawyer. Alas, the film does depend a lot on the inexplicable confidence that 1990ish Hollywood had in James Belushi as a leading man—the film would have been significantly different with another actor in his role. There is some skill in the way the plot pieces are moves around, but Curly Sue is disappointing even for Hughes completists.

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