Milk Money (1994)

13 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Is “Milk Money” for kids or adults? I think a better question is—is “Milk Money” trying too hard to let itself off easy? Either way, it stinks.

This is either a charming family film, a romantic comedy, a thriller, or all three. I can’t tell, because it switches back and forth. What’s the premise? Well, a trio of pre-teen boys go to the city to see a naked lady and she winds up living in their suburban home, where she hides from gangsters and falls in love with the single father of one of the boys.

Wow. With a premise like that, I’m surprised you’re still reading this.

The boys—shy Frank (Michael Patrick Carter), neat-freak Kevin (Brian Christopher), and cool Brad (Adam LaVorgna)—are about twelve years old and go to middle school, where they learn sex education. (By the way, isn’t 9th grade when you’re supposed to start taking that class?) In an opening scene, we see them talk about stuff they find in their mothers’ and sisters’ rooms, like a diaphragm. They notice the girls in their school, and they also watch porn, to look further into their curiosity.

The boys come across some money and they ride their bikes into the nearby city of Pittsburgh, where they hope to find a prostitute naked and pay her for it. This is where they meet “V” (Melanie Griffith), who takes her shirt off for $103.

Right away, you can probably tell how uncomfortable this is. The scene in which she takes her shirt off to the boys is creepy. OK, we don’t see any nudity except from the back, since this movie is rated PG-13, but that doesn’t make the scene any less creepy to see the boys’ reactions—one of which has his eyes closed. (“I can’t do it—I wanna be a gentleman!”) How does the movie try to force itself out of the awkwardness? By cutting to the boys walking down a nearby alley, with cigarettes in the mouth—the cigarettes aren’t lit and there’s cheerful music playing over the scene. This is far from less-than-awkward.

The boys’ bikes are stolen, so V gives them a ride home. But as V drops Frank off at his house, her car stalls and she’s forced to stay in the suburbs—specifically, Frank’s treehouse. Frank’s dad Tom (Ed Harris) is led to believe she’s a math tutor, helping a friend with his homework. And of course, there are many misunderstandings and misreading of double meanings, neither of which are more painful than funny. This sets up the romantic angle of the film, as V and Tom start to fall for each other, with Tom not knowing until later that she’s a hooker living in his son’s treehouse until her car is fixed. It’s more unfortunate that Griffith and Harris don’t share much chemistry together, so it’s harder to buy into their supposed romance.

But wait a minute—it turns out the broken-down car belongs to V’s pimp (Casey Siemaszko) who has hidden a load of money in the trunk (V doesn’t know this). So, an angry gangster, who has killed the pimp, is looking for V because he knows she has the money and thinks she stole it. This leads to an action climax to show that the film surely just does not care about what it’s supposed to be about. We have it all—the gangsters crashing the kids’ school dance, the kids getting away by driving a car, and can you believe that car actually blows up?

The worst scene in the movie is when Frank brings V to class for his sex ed presentation. Tell me if this makes any sense—Frank locks the teacher out of the classroom, surely doesn’t get graded for this, sneaks V in through the window, uses her as a visual aid for a reproduction assignment, and doesn’t even get punished for it.

What were these writers thinking when they wrote “Milk Money?”

The three young actors—Michael Patrick Carter, Brian Christopher, and Adam LaVorgna—are fine, despite given clichéd writing to their characters. Ed Harris does what he can with his role and even manages to give the character some dignity—he’s a high school science teacher trying to save some wetlands. But Melanie Griffith, who used to be an exciting comic actress (see “Working Girl”), is pretty bad. She fails miserably at her dramatic moments and her comic moments are merely OK.

“Milk Money” is a mess. When its writing isn’t embarrassing, it’s very much clichéd. The film pretty much fails when the setup makes itself known, the stuff with the gangsters is completely unnecessary, the romance isn’t convincing, and it tries to make itself into a charming family comedy when really it’s a mashup of stuff for kids and adults. Well, let’s face it—“Milk Money” isn’t for either. It’s made for rocks.

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