Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990) — Oh Roxy you’re so foxy

“She loved that dog. She used to ride it. It was a big dog.”

Justin’s rating: I myself am strange and unusual

Justin’s review: Despite the title, Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael isn’t actually about someone with an amazing first name. It’s about someone with a quirky first name — namely, Dinky (Winona Ryder). Dinky is an outcast teen in her school and community, preferring to hang out on a boat of animals than her adoptive family who’s trying to ship her off to a reform school. She’s less than a nobody and feels it.

So you can understand how Dinky might become so desperate for status and importance that she latches on to a pet theory that Roxy Carmichael is her secret birth mother.

Roxy Roxy Roxy. From the very start of the movie, we hear and see the name everywhere — but not the person herself. Roxy Carmichael is a small town girl who left her child and boyfriend behind to become a mildly famous star. Now she’s coming back, and the community is going bonkers over the occasion: renaming buildings, giving kids time off school, posting banners. Heck, her old home even got turned into a museum with tours.

With this returning larger-than-life legend, everyone wants a piece of Roxy — but nobody more than Dinky. Dinky obsesses over Roxy’s old bedroom, interrogates Roxy’s previous boyfriend Denton (Jeff Daniels), and daydreams about a better life that Roxy might take her away to.

I suppose it’s a fantasy that a lot of outcasts have had, that one day someone infinitely cooler might elevate them to better status. Ryder does a great job playing a wounded soul who’s buried in her own eccentricities, fashion, and anti-social behavior as a defense against a world that doesn’t want her. She and Ally Sheedy from Breakfast Club would be best friends, if they’d only meet.

Yet as the great moment of Roxy Carmichael’s return looms nigh, a few relationships show signs of breaking through Dinky’s shields. The school’s guidance counselor (who’s as seemingly put together as Dinky isn’t) takes a genuine interest in the teen’s case, a romance begins to bloom with her classmate Gerald, Roxy’s ex becomes a father figure of sorts, and Dinky’s actual adoptive father discovers that he actually does care about this extremely troubled teen.

Probably the weakest part of the film is the subplot where Denton’s home life disintegrates because he’s sort of conflicted about his ex coming back to town. Yeah, he’s being a dolt, but for his wife to grab the kids and leave him seemed like an overreaction that the movie didn’t go to lengths to justify. It also drags everything down into melancholy, and I hate seeing Jeff Daniels bummed out.

Directed by Jim Abrahams (of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker trio of spoof artists), Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael isn’t the gag-a-second comedy that was his forté. Yet it is a comedy, just the type that’s offbeat and amusing with a dash of drama and romance to keep things interesting. The best part is definitely Dinky launching into a rather steamy poem recital to her crush in the middle of class. The film also has a secret weapon in the form of a playful score by Thomas Newman, which lifts up almost any scene where it kicks into gear.

Maybe Dinky is too much of a movie rebel tailor designed to make the teen girl demographic clutch their chest and go, “She GETS me!” But I don’t care. Ryder was a lot of fun portraying such characters around this time (such as in Heathers and Beetlejuice). And maybe this film can’t get the tone or focus right. Yet I still liked the clash of larger-than-life and just-plain-life, ideas vs. reality that’s shown here. This movie feels like a good way to wave farewell to the ’80s and hello to the looming Gen X angst of the ’90s.

Didja notice?

  • “Roxy — The prodigal daughter returns”
  • Winona Ryder could stare down anyone, I’m convinced
  • Roxy Carmichael Center for Cosmetology and Drama (lol)
  • Where is it that 10-year-olds could get married?
  • Pigs shouldn’t be a cliché
  • Roxy’s old home with the signs and mannequins is kind of hilarious in its ridiculousness (“Don’t you know this is a historic site!”
  • I like that Dinky’s adopted dad finds her kind of funny
  • That’s a lot of locks on the door
  • Dinky’s passionate poem is worth the price of admission
  • “Gee I can’t tell you how privileged you make me feel”
  • Dinky up and hitting Jeff Daniels twice
  • “She had a definite cheapness about her, but she was not cheap!”
  • “I’m going to laugh at you some day Gerald Howells.”
  • Aw that bow is tragic, but the running tackle is romantic
  • I like Dinky giving back as good as she gets
  • OK the school counselor holding Dinky’s hand under the table made me tear up, darn it
  • Ugh walking in on your parents… doing… things
  • Dinky’s super pink dress
  • Roxy stiffs ’em all

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