Film review: Dutch

Published: Monday, July 22 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

So far this year, John Hughes has given us "Career Opportunities," "Only the Lonely" and now, "Dutch." And it's only July!

Actually, it's not hard to understand how Hughes turns out so many screenplays. He probably just leaves the old ones in his computer so they're easier to rewrite.

"Dutch" is little more than "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" meets "Uncle Buck," by way of "Home Alone," with some "Pretty in Pink" thrown in. Oh, did I mention "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"?

All that's missing is John Candy.

Hughes wrote and produced "Dutch" but left directing chores this time to Peter Faiman, who also did " `Crocodile' Dundee." But Hughes' movies are pretty much cookie-cutter flicks — they all look alike. And this one is no exception.

Following the John Hughes formula, "Dutch" pits rich stereotypes against blue collar stereotypes, goes on the road and mentions Chicago a lot.

Ed O'Neill, best known as Al Bundy on TV's "Married . . . With Children," stars in the title role as Dutch Dooley, a Chicago construction worker with his own company. His girlfriend is single parent Natalie (JoBeth Williams), whose ex-husband, Reed, is a wealthy jerk (Christopher McDonald, who played a similar male chauvinist pig character as Geena Davis' husband in "Thelma & Louise.")

Their son is spoiled, bratty, snobbish Doyle (Ethan Randall).

When Doyle, who is in a private school in Georgia, stands his mother up for Thanksgiving, Dutch offers to go get him. Despite warnings from Natalie about what he's in for, Dutch thinks this will be an opportunity for him to get to know the lad, traveling from Atlanta to Chicago by car.

But when he arrives, Doyle greets him with a karate kick to the groin and a stun gun. Their relationship goes downhill from there.

Doyle tries to endear himself to the boy, setting off fireworks by the roadside, making faces and generally going out of his way to be nice to the kid — but to no avail.

Eventually, the lad's mischief wrecks Dutch's car and they're on the road hitchhiking. Along the way they share a deck of playing cards adorned with nude women, sleep in a homeless shelter (a condescending sequence if ever there was one) and get picked up by hookers (extremely tasteless, even by Hughes' standards).

The problem here is that, like "Problem Child" and its sequel, you may never warm up to young Doyle, who, through most of the film is so obnoxious you wonder why Dutch bothers.

"Dutch" also gets off to a very slow start. The timing seems off and the jokes seem stale until about halfway through, when the humor quotient picks up.

The one bright spot is Ed O'Neill, who is very funny and warm as Dutch, showing potential as a fine comic leading man.

Young Randall is good, but as written and directed his character is just too alienating most of the way. Williams has a most thankless role and McDonald is merely a broad comic device.

Worse, in the end, Hughes' script opts for violence as a solution to domestic problems between ex-spouses, which seems very ill advised. Especially considering how much of this movie is layered in thick sentimentality.

"Dutch" is definitely a mixed bag, but does have some laughs here and there.

It is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, vulgarity and female nudity on a playing card.