“Dad always said, no bugs, no bite!”
Justin’s rating: I prefer to think of this as the spiritual prequel to SpaceCamp — MAX AND JINX FRIENDS FOREVER
Justin’s review: In the early 1990s, every Hollywood studio was required to employ a guy whose sole job was to pitch stories that would end with the phrase, “Wouldn’t that be WaCkY?” I’m not sure why these people weren’t ignored or shut down, because it ended up in a stream of fluffy family flicks that pandered so hard to kids that it overshot the mark and was only of interest to babies three months old in the womb or younger.
Today’s case study is the torturously titled 1991 movie, And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird! This got a much cooler name — Robodad — in foreign markets, but either way, it was a direct result of the Wacky Guy calling the shots.
So we start with two geeky brothers, Josh and Max, who are laboring to build a robot in their basement. It’s the worst-looking robot ever — it looks like a shop-vac with eyes and flimsy arms — but these are kids we’re talking about, so let’s not be too critical. Their lackluster creation, Newman, gets that special upgrade when a nearby seance lures the soul of their dead dad (!) into the robot.
Isn’t that WACKY?
So now their dad is back in robot form, and their mom (who’s the same mom from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) is plunged into a relationship nightmare between her marital vows to R2D2 and her new relationship with an actual flesh-and-blood boyfriend. I mean, we all want deceased loved ones back, but as household appliances outside of the warranty?
What really took me aback was when one of the kids mentions early on that their dad committed suicide. Kids movies don’t usually go there, so I was like, DANG movie. That’s dark. But hey, now I wanted to see what the dad would be like if he was forced back from the dead into his old family.
It turns out that he ends up like Alan Thicke, because there’s not a dad role that Thicke would say no to in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This is the same sort of scifi-lite family adventures that kept him wrapped up in the Not Quite Human series. It would’ve been absolutely hilarious if Newman-Dad would have spent his runtime screaming in existential horror at being shoved into this unlikely body.
Instead, we get “wacky” hijinks as the boys try to evade a robotics company, nosy reporter on the slowest news day ever, and rival inventors. Eventually, as these things go, they have to appeal to the spirit of Albert Einstein.
More than that, And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird! lays into sentimental pap like there’s about to be a national shortage. It’s a silly premise that should have been just that, but the writer/director clearly wanted this to be as emotionally moving and impactful as E.T. and Ghost. But when everyone’s getting all teary about an upside-down colander with eyes and the dad from Growing Pains booming out of its midsection, it’s really hard to buy it.
Of course, it turns out that the dad didn’t really kill himself. Mystery! Twist! Intrigue! He accidentally drove off a cliff to avoid a skunk! Wait, what?
I don’t think I can stand here and make a bold case that And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird! is worth the time to watch it — or even type out that title every time. But you know what? It’s sweet, it’s inoffensive, and it features a robot relentlessly hitting on his former wife. There are worst ways to spend your time (and better).
- When the main title comes in with a cartoony sound effect, you know you’re in trouble
- A bad operating system can make your robot explode
- I admit I laughed when the kid turned off the actual movie soundtrack (which was playing on a tape deck nearby)
- Hey it’s Deep Space Nine’s Quark as the principal!
- A voice activated garbage can mover. Wow. What all the cool kids are making these days.
- Building the robot montage! It’s pretty good!
- That actually looks like real computer programming
- “Charlie, have you been smoking?” meow
- Girls love to be body tackled into the dirt
- The robot showing off in the background
- Yes, it’s a good idea for a robot to wash a car with a spray hose
- A robot with a Walkman
- News reporters often bribe little kids with new bikes
- Robots like disguises
- Robots also like giving creepy foot massages