It Takes Two

(Andy Tennant, USA, 1995)


I expected zilch from this movie. The prospect of seeing cute little twins (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen from television's Full House) matchmake Kirstie Alley and Steve Guttenberg brought on a horrendous flashback of bland Disney productions from over thirty years ago.

It Takes Two, however, is surprisingly upbeat, sassy and entertaining. The Olsens play not twins but look-alikes from opposite sides of the tracks.

Mary-Kate Olsen is Amanda, a vulgar, working class kid full of energy. She has no living parents; only a caseworker at the orphanage, Diane (Alley), wants her. Ashley Olsen plays Alyssa, the pampered daughter of rich single father Roger (Guttenberg), who is sweet but always absorbed in business.

When Amanda and Diane wind up in a summer camp opposite Roger's mansion, the scene is set for the predictable trading of places between the girls. Even "in character", the Olsens exhibit a fetching quality of play-acting. Once swapped, Amanda and Alyssa embark on an especially spirited series of histrionic impersonations: the nice girl talks tough, the feisty girl gives a piano recital at a chic party.

Balancing all the light-hearted mayhem is the more down-to-earth romantic intrigue between Diane and Roger. This film reminded me of how good Kirstie Alley can be, with her unique combination of sexiness, vulnerability, neurotic jibing and hard stoicism. Guttenberg is a less distinctive performer, but he projects with ease a light-comedy aura that is perfect for this story.

Director Andy Tennant, in his cinema debut, makes the most of this modest material. Like the best comedies of manners of recent years, It Takes Two crisply alternates vignettes of extremely diverse lifestyles, thus milking the humour of the culture-clash premise. And it relishes the blacker possibilities for comedy offered by Roger's predatory, hysterical fiancée Clarice (Jane Sibbett from television's Herman's Head).

Best of all, Tennant does not shirk from the script's one genuinely oddball, resolutely non-Disney element. At a particular plot turn, Amanda is adopted into a hideously kitsch-infested, suburban white-trash home. Soon the horrible, Dickensian truth behind this family is revealed: the father runs a scrap-yard, and its slave labour force is his gang of adopted children!

Now, that's the kind of material I like to see in a G rated movie.

MORE Tennant: Anna and the King, Fools Rush In, Sweet Home Alabama

© Adrian Martin April 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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