X 1/2 "Folks!," with Tom Selleck, Don Ameche. Directed by Ted Kotcheff, from a script by Robert Klane. Alderwood, Aurora Village, Gateway, Kent, Newmark, Overlake, Parkway Plaza, Valley drive-in. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised, due to violence. --------------------------------
Alzheimer's disease. Freeway pile-ups. Trailer homes going up in smoke.
This has to be a Tom Selleck comedy, right?
The folks who made "Folks!" probably held no advance screenings because they're all too aware of the critical creaming that Selleck usually gets from the press. Still, it's tempting to think someone had a sixth sense about the bad timing of this tasteless yuckfest's release.
Here's a film where the beleaguered hero tries out a new method of euthanasia: dropping his life-weary parents off in a downtown ghetto where they hope to be killed. As it turns out, this is the week when that's not an entirely implausible scenario - only it's not exactly a subject for a farce.
Here's a film where aging Dad slips behind the wheel of his Cadillac and immediately drives it into a crowd. Again, the same story has turned up on headline news, not once but twice in the past week - only it wasn't being played for laughs.
The doubtful taste of "Folks!" shouldn't come as a surprise. It's brought to you by the same team that made "Weekend at Bernie's" - about a party host who dies, only none of his guests notices.
Selleck manages to stay alive through "Folks!" but he sure takes a beating. He's Chicago commodities trader Jon Aldrich, whose life starts to unravel when he learns that his mother Mildred (Anne Jackson) is in the hospital and his father Harry (Don Ameche) is nowhere to be found.
Adding to his woes is his best friend at work, Ed (Michael Murphy), who turns out to be an FBI spy working on an insider-trading case: he thinks Jon is a prime suspect. Then there is Jon's sister Arleen (Christine Ebersole), a flighty, temperamental divorcee with two bratty kids. She's on the lookout for a husband - anyone will do. Worrying about her parents is low on her priority list.
Not that Jon is an angel. He has neglected Mom and Dad for 15 years or so. In some ways, he deserves the physical punishment that results when he takes unpredictable Harry into his care.
Selleck is amiably feckless in the role, and "Folks!" is competently made, featuring some lively stunt work and some energetic if cartoonish performances. Ameche, at 83, still sprints like a college athlete, and Ebersole, as a poisonous sex-kitten, milks her stereotype for all its worth.
The film's appeal will depend largely on whether you feel like laughing at senile dementia and automobile accidents.
Not this week, thanks.