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The Deep End Of The Ocean

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams and Whoopi Goldberg
Screenplay by Stephen Schiff,
Based on the novel by Jacqueline Mitchard
Directed by Ulu Grosbard

IN SHORT: Not for teens. Not for guys. Not nearly weepy enough for a great chick flick.

If Cranky was a teenage geek writing about The Deep End of the Ocean, well, that location is where I would've dropped this flick. But I'm a breeder and at this age it's difficult not to imprint personal memories upon the characters seen up on screen. That doesn't necessarily make the film any more tolerable, but I'm a guy, and not the demographic target. I used to have a friend I would lug to these femme-demo'ed flicks, but we haven't talked in a year so I've got to project some more memory stuff out into the universe for what would've been her reaction. She would've been leaking like an old pipe, as opposed to gushing like a broken water main (which by our definition would be the sign of a perfect chick flick).

The usual disclaimer applies: Cranky makes no comparison to Source Material, though Jacqueline Mitchard has never made my must read list, which leans towards Tom Wolfe and Al Franken. But I'm a guy...

Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a busy bee of a mom. Two small kids and a baby. A restauranteur husband, Pat (Treat Williams) who works with his dad and dreams of opening his own place down in Chicago (our locale is the lovely town of Madison, WI). Beth lets Pat have a weekend with the boys while she lugs her threesome down into the Windy City to her 15th high school reunion. In a crowded hotel lobby flush with nostalgia and reunion fever, Beth leaves her middle kidlet, three year old Ben (Michael McElroy) to be watched over by her oldest, seven year old Vincent (Cory Buck). Ben disappears. An intensive investigation is led by Chicago super-cop Candace Bliss (Whoopi Goldberg) but no body, living or dead is ever found. Beth takes to her bed, probably wishing she will finally wake up from what turns out to be a bad dream. But she doesn't.

You may wonder, as Cranky did, why no one heads for or even suggests a visit to the local shrink. That's something I can answer from personal experience. Way back when, many of my friends way back when were from strong Italian families (and the Cappadora family unit here is very strong) and in that culture, going to a shrink just isn't done. Fade out and fast forward.

Nine years later, with the kids in or approaching teen-hood, Pat is the owner of his own restaurant and Beth has reestablished a career as a photographer. They all live in a new house near Chicago. Fragile reality comes crashing to a halt as Ben (Ryan Merriman) comes a-knocking on the front door, wanting to mow the lawn. Now called Sam and living all of two blocks away, he is a nice kid, son of a Greek dad (John Kapelos) and deceased mom. Sam has no memory of his "real" parents. When he is pulled back into their loving arms, he is none too happy. How the situation is worked out, and how the various interpersonal relationships come together or fall apart, is the rest of the movie. It is here that it all falls apart.

The Deep End of the Ocean lays out as a pretty stock story: fall apart, get better, overcome reality and try to figure out a solution that will make everyone happy and stand as a kind of inspiring story for the women-folk. To enable that balance and inspiration bit, you must have a clearly defined set of rules and relationship between husband and wife B as they sort out the power structure that the situation requires B but that doesn't come across strongly enough. With Pfeiffer as star, the emphasis is all on her breakdown and recovery, which is played well. Strangely enough, the only point that didn't work for me comes early on when Beth collapses in hysteria after Ben if officially declared missing. Here, "over wrought" comes at you at a level that is way over the top. It just didn't feel right.

The weird part of it all is that, almost from the word go, this breeder focused on the one character that the screenplay ignores, emotionally. That would be the teenage son, Vincent (Jonathan Jackson), who locks his door and plays heavy metal music; not a substitute for character development. When you get to the end of the flick, at the traditional point of revelation, if you haven't figured the big secret out a mile off, you've probably been weeping too much to think about it.

Sue me. I'm a guy. For me, The Deep End of the Ocean misses by a mile. The breeder-aged women who walked out in front of me were split on how big a weeper this movie was. Some admitted to gushing buckets during the flick, some barely a trickle. All were dry eyed on the way out, which is not a good sign for the traditional chick flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Deep End of the Ocean, he would have paid...


I can't even kick this up to a grin and bear it rental (to show your sensitive side to your dates) level. The Deep End of the Ocean runs much less than two hours, but it sure feels like more.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.