Friday, September 02, 2005

THE TIE THAT BINDS Strangles On Its Own Bad Taste

Biological parents battle adopting parents for the custody
of a disturbed young girl. No, its not the Hatfields vs. the
McCoys...but rather the Cliftons vying with the Netherwoods
(one guess as to who's the bad folks) in this bloody mess of
a movie.

Seems that John and Leann Netherwood (played
by Keith Carradine and Daryl Hannah) survive by breaking and
entering wealthy homes, Polaroiding their victims and, more
often than not, killing the victims for a few additional photo
opportunities. During one of these house calls L.A.'s finest
arrive just in time to wing John as he and Leann run to safety.
Their quick action, however, leads to the capture of daughter Janie
(effectively portrayed by newcomer Julia Devin) whose been
innocently chasing fireflies in the backyard.

At the station Janie's rag doll is placed into a baggie
(presumably for evidence), and it is then that we first learn
of Janie's deep-rooted psychological problems. She goes
ballastic rescuing the doll from suffocation and it
takes the Rodney King sextet to subdue her.

Enter the second tag team which will contend for Janie's
affections and afflictions. Vincent Spano plays housing
contractor Russell Clifton whose spec trophy home has the
financing pulled halfway through the building process. His
wife, Dana (Moria Kelly), shares John Netherwood's interest
in photography. She's a professional who specializes in
food shots and is now the only source of income for the Clifton
family. While Russell wrestles with Chapter 11 woes Dana woos
him into an adoption agency so they will have yet another
mouth to feed. Not the best of ideas, but certainly par for the
course given the lame story Mr. Auerbach has concocted.

Understandably nervous at this undertaking, John delivers the
most suitable line in the film when he looks at all the darling
little munchkins seeking rescue and he declares: "We have met
the clowns and they are us!" Clowns, indeed.

Dana falls instantly for little Janie and, despite a hair-do
reminiscent of the third runner-up in a Miss Bulgaria beauty
contest, precious Janie falls for Dana. With cuddly affection
that would embarrass both the Cleavers and the Huxtables, little
Janie seems to tolerate her new parents well enough. Her new
doll, the tattered Mr. Flip Flop is, however, her best friend
and she confides in the bunny that John and Leann are surely
on their way because "they own me."

Sure 'nuff. With more bull-headed determination than even
the Bush Administration exhibits in its policy towards war in
Iraq, John and Leann go through a series of victims
to find their daughter. Among those who temporarily get in
the way are the carrot-topped cop who had the temerity to shoot
John in the opening scene and the noble Hispanic welfare worker
whose demise is blatantly telegraphed the moment she first
appears. The bloody and climactic finale takes place in the partially
completed spec home out in the middle of nowhere. No walls,
virtually no roof, and with no police protection requested,
this makes for one of the stupidest refuges in cinema history.

By now the cliché count has reached staggering proportions (the
car that won't start during an escape attempt, the presumed
dead villain who isn't, etc.) so it is pointless to discuss
the ending -- except for one highly disturbing moment -- when
ten-year-old Janie thrusts a dagger into her biological
father's stomach ("You taught me that, Daddy.") with clinical
ease. Forget any concern you might have for "Natural Born Killers"
or "Pulp Fiction" (both of which I personally liked), it is
this irresponsible scene that makes "The Tie That Binds" the
sickest, sleaziest, most disgusting movie on the shelf of your
local Blockbuster.


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