Listen, not all movies are destined for greatness. Some are designed to be mega-box-office hits, and others are “sleeper films” that end up surprising by overperforming to great acclaim. And some movies… well, they just don’t do well with audiences upon their release for whatever reason. Perhaps they have the bad luck of being released at the wrong time. It’s possible their humor or talent isn’t appreciated until it becomes a “cult hit” later on in life. Maybe they are released by 20th Century Fox and have the words “Fantastic Four” in the title. Whatever the case – some movies just bomb.
Just because a film fails at the box office doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a “bad movie,” right? After all – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. Today then, for your consideration, I bring a financial mega-dud, but also a film that I infinitely enjoy watching, and still find myself copiously quoting today, almost 25 years after its release. A movie that lasted just one scant week in theaters, and barely had enough interest to generate a release on DVD. A movie that cost the job of one very famous ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast member. A movie that features not only one of the most popular members of the Monty Python comedy troupe, but also one of the biggest swimsuit models of the 1990s. Intrigued? Then read on to hear all about the “so bad, it’s good” joy of ‘Mom and Dad Save the World.’
It’s a cliche ’90s film, through and through: slapstick comedy featuring outrageous situations, very little plot, and even less attention to details such as special effects, editing, wardrobe, etc. But it’s charm lies in the fact that, on a deep level, it’s pretty clear that the film knows that it’s dumb, and embraces that fact with an odd revelry. Far off at the edge of our galaxy, Emperor Tod Spengo (Jon Lovitz) is tired of his tiny planet, the aptly-named Spengo, playing second-fiddle to Earth in universal prominence. So he decides to blow it up – until he looks through his giant space telescope and spies “the most beautiful creature I’ve ever see-ee-een!” in Marge Nelson (Teri Garr), an average housewife leading a fairly boring life in California. Tod delays the destruction of Earth so that Marge can be brought to Spengo to be his bride – but his bumbling underlings accidentally bring Marge’s husband, Dick (Jeffrey Jones) along with her. Through a series of comedic pratfalls and fortuitously-time coincidences, Dick manages to escape Spengo’s death sentence for him; he meets the former ruler of the planet, Raf (Eric Idle), and gets connected with the underground resistance led by Raf’s son Sirk (Dwier Brown) and daughter Semage (Kathy Ireland). Sadly, the resistance members are just as dumb as Spengo and his crew; can Dick rally the forces of sorta-good to defeat the evil grip of idiotic-evil in time to save the Earth and stuff?
Filmed in 1990 and released by production company HBO (yes, that HBO), work on “Mom and Dad” went significantly over its estimated shooting time, so much so that ‘Saturday Night Live’ creator Lorne Greene gave Lovitz an ultimatum: leave the filming and return to New York in time for the season of ‘SNL’ to commence, or be put off the show permanently. Lovitz made his decision to stick with the film, and in retrospect, it was pretty clearly the wrong call on his part. Credit the man for making a choice and sticking to his guns, though! The writer of this film, Ed Solomon, was a son-in-law of fellow Monty Python member John Cleese at the time of filming; no specific word on whether this connection helped land a big star like Idle for a small film like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the in-law nepotism did come into play. The “star power” didn’t help the movie, however; with an estimated budget of $14 million, the film recouped a measly $2 million before it was yanked out of theaters in the summer of ’92. With a current rating of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s hard to argue that choice was the wrong one.
I can’t stress this enough, however: the situational plot and dialogue of the film is so insanely left-field that you really can’t help but laugh when you’re watching – partly because what is happening on screen is so dumb, but also partly because you can see what the filmmakers were trying to say and do: as written, the film is a pretty scathing send-up of some of the dumb things that humans do in today’s society and how self-important we think we are. Perhaps that’s why the film bombed – no one likes to be told that the things they do in their daily lives are inane and stupid, even if they really are. Whatever the reason for the film’s colossal fail, it remains – in my mind, anyhow – an eminently-quotable film that’s enjoyable time after time, for the “God, it’s so dumb, but so true” aesthetic. As Sirk says in the film, “What we lack in brains, we make up for with… good intentions!”
If Tony Schaab had a Mega Blaster for a hand and a robotic dog named Rush that turned into a Hoverboard, you’d better believe that he’d spend all his time fighting Dr. Wily and his crazy mechanized inventions too! A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.