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Film review: Son-in-law

Published: Tuesday, July 6 1993 12:00 a.m. MDT

A formula fish-out-of-water farce, "Son-in-Law" is an obvious vehicle designed to showcase the dubious talents of standup comic and MTV personality Pauly Shore, who scored an unexpected hit last year with "Encino Man."

But in "Encino Man," Shore offered comic support. In "Son-in-Law," he carries the picture — and drops it frequently.

The film begins with its focus on Rebecca (Carla Gugino), an innocent "farmer's daughter" who graduates at the top of her high school class, then travels to a Los Angeles college, where she is the fish out of water.

But the film soon shifts its emphasis to Crawl (Shore), a career college student (in his sixth year) who takes her under his wing to integrate her into the wild-eyed lifestyle of co-ed dorms. (No one here ever attends classes, of course.)

Then, at Thanksgiving, she invites Shore to join her family for the holiday. Naturally, they are shocked by both the change in their daughter (dyed hair, mini-skirts, see-through tops and an ankle tattoo) and the weirdo she has brought home.

Eventually, Rebecca's old boyfriend proposes and she is in a tizzy because she really doesn't want to marry him. So, instead of doing something as logical as having her say no, Crawl pretends to be her fiance.

But the plot is really just an excuse for Shore's goofy antics and silly slang and for "outrageous" comedy bits, such as a lesbian kiss between two girls in the dorm, Shore dressed up like Carmen Miranda, a cameo by "Encino Man" Brendan Fraser, Shore mud-wrestling with an overweight woman, Shore wearing chaps with no underwear, a cow urinating on Shore, Rebecca's father getting his nickname wrong and calling him "Crotch" a couple of times and, of course, the ever-popular kick-in-the-groin scene, which seems to be required viewing in modern comedies.

Alternately stupid and offensive, "Son-in-Law" is a textbook case of aiming for the easy laugh — and the radio-sponsored teen audience that filled the theater responded accordingly.

But Hollywood's penchant for showing rural families as rubes who are boobs (and in this case, the family is also quite obnoxious) and the running theme of teen sex being perfectly acceptable (though Rebecca herself is chaste) is truly grating.

The moment that really sums up this film's hypocrisy is when Crawl and Rebecca's little brother (played by Patrick Renna, of "The Sandlot") are discussing women's breasts in vulgar terms. They laugh at their own sexist remarks until the boy brings up his sister. Then Crawl chides him, saying, "Don't talk about your sister like that!"

The obvious message is that it's OK to be sexist and make derogatory remarks about women — unless it's a member of the family.

"Son-in-Law" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgarity, nudity, violence and general raunchiness.

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