(aka Big Girls Don't Cry ... They Get Even, Joan Micklin Silver, USA, 1992)


When Joan Micklin Silver, director of such respected arthouse films as Hester Street (1975) and Crossing Delancey (1988) made the teen movie Loverboy starring Patrick Dempsey in 1989, many reviewers howled their disapproval at her choice of material. Silver subsequently went even further into mainstream territory with Stepkids.

Although this is being pitched in the video stores as a "crazy comedy in the tradition of Home Alone", Stepkids begins much more like a female version of that smart alec teen classic of the '80s, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986).

Young Laura (Patricia Kalembar) speaks directly into the camera as she gives us a guided tour of her nutty, extended family, patched together through several divorces and re-marriages. It's certainly a lively cross-section of sitcom caricatures: a little boy who's a science nerd, a mother-daughter team who dress and shop alike, a stepbrother with a military obsession, an irresponsible artist Dad …

While it skates from room to room in a breezy comedy of manners, the film is very enjoyable, and the large ensemble cast (including Griffin Dunne, David Strathairn and Margaret Whitton) perform their one-dimensional roles with élan.

Eventually, the script relocates all characters in a pastoral idyll, in search of the runaway Laura, and the obligatory semi-serious stuff starts – the unbelievable character transformations, family reconciliations and down-home moral philosophising.

Still, in its deft mixture of plot lines and character situations from teen movies, kids' comedies and adult romantic comedies, Stepkids scores more than a few laughs. Particularly memorable is the road movie interlude where Laura falls in with a gang of store robbing juvenile delinquents; also her encounter with a wholesome, showtune-singing family who could almost be the live-action version of the Flanders from The Simpsons.

MORE Silver: A Private Matter

© Adrian Martin June 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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