Family films are big business these days, including sequels and remakes . . . unofficial remakes, that is.
"MY GIRL 2" is a followup to the popular first film of a few years ago, which was most famous for killing off Macaulay Culkin's character near the end of the film.
The original "My Girl" also introduced young Anna Chlumsky as a charming youngster named Vada, growing up in small-town Pennsylvania during the early '70s. Dan Aykroyd played her widowed, tuba-playing, mortician father, and Jamie Lee Curtis became her step-mother.
The same cast is reunited for this sequel, which takes place two years later, as Vada is feeling a bit displaced. Her stepmother is about to give birth, she has to give up her bedroom and Dad doesn't quite know how to handle Vada's blooming adolescence.
When Vada gets a school assignment to write a paper about someone she has never met, someone who accomplished something "great," she decides to research her mother, who died shortly after she was born and about whom she knows very little. Unfortunately, her father isn't much help, since they courted for only a couple of weeks and were married less than a year.
So, Vada decides to spend some time with her uncle (Richard Masur) in Los Angeles during spring break, to do some detective work on her mother's past.
Once there, she finds that her auto mechanic uncle is living with the owner of the garage (Christine Ebersole), whose son (Austin O'Brien) reluctantly agrees to escort Vada around town.
There are some charming moments here, though the film is rather placid, never quite building the full head of emotional and humorous steam achieved by its predecessor. In terms of plot, the melodramatics are sappy and too contrived, while much of the dialogue seems stiff and unnatural. And for some reason the top-billed stars, Aykroyd and Curtis, have very small, bookend roles.
But Chlumsky is still a charming presence on the screen, and Masur and Ebersole manage to squeeze a few chuckles out of their roles.
"My Girl 2" is rated PG for profanity and marijuana smoking.
"BLANK CHECK" is "Home Alone," Disney-style.
It's also an uneven blend of the cable MTV and QVC channels, by way of "Brewster's Millions."
In other words, original it's not.
The story has an 11-year-old computer nerd (Brian Bonsall, who was once the youngest of the Keaton clan on TV's "Family Ties") "finding" a million bucks and blowing it in six days on a plethora of high-tech toys.
This gives director Rupert Wainwright (Hammer's music videos, Sinbad's Reebok commercials) an opportunity to stop the action every so often for dozens of mini-music videos, each showing Bonsall playing with the kind of upscale, brand-name trinkets most of us can't afford from a video wall to an indoor-outdoor water slide to a virtual reality game to all kinds of oversized athletic equipment.
The story has ex-con Miguel Ferrer digging up his stash a million bucks in cold cash and taking it to a Midwest bank where a former associate (Michael Lerner) is bank president. Ferrer tells Lerner to launder the money and come up with a million in clean bills by the next day.
How Bonsall gets the money instead is wildly complicated . . . which is not to say amusing.
Bonsall then spends the rest of the film frittering the money away he moves into a $300,000 house (a castle, actually), hires a full-time chauffeur to be his pal (Rick Ducommun) and tries to elude the bad guys (Ferrer, Lerner and rapper Tone Loc). Bonsall also strikes up an oddly "romantic" relationship with a glamorous bank teller who turns out to be an FBI agent (Karen Duffy).
Eventually, however, Bonsall must confront his own deceit and discover his inner child . . . which certainly seems older than his outer child.
The kids in the audience seemed satisfied that villains fell into the swimming pool and one was hit in the groin with a baseball.
Favorite moment: Toward the end of the film, Bonsall's neglectful father apologizes for his parental neglect, making his confession to the back of a chair, never knowing that his son is sitting in the chair. You have to see it to believe it.
On second thought, no one should have to see it.
Farcical plotting can take on wild proportions, of course, but in "Blank Check" they just get sillier and sillier without ever getting funnier. The result is a very dumb movie that talks down to the kids who are its target audience.
Especially at the end, when the film pretends to moralize about doing the right thing after 90 minutes of demonstrating that anyone who steals a million bucks and doesn't get caught can get away with anything.
The audience should feel insulted. I certainly did.
"Blank Check" is rated PG for comic violence and some vulgar language.