Today’s film is one of many in the long and glorious career of director Alan Smithee. Of course, most film fans know that there is no Alan Smithee. This was the name that was used when a director, for some reason or another, wanted their name removed from a film they had made. So, usually the presence of the Smithee name was a bad sign. According to the all-knowing internet, today’s film was actually directed by two people, Paul Aaron and Terry Winsor, but after the film sat on the shelf for a while, it was eventually released with the directing credit going to Smithee. It’s the 1987 teen comedy “Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home.”
Morgan Stewart (Jon Cryer) is the son of a senator from the state of Virginia (Nicholas Pryor) and his power-hungry wife (Lynn Redgrave). She was Hillary Clinton before the nation knew who Hillary Clinton was. Since the age of 10, Morgan has lived at boarding school. He rarely sees his parents, who often cancel holiday get togethers in favor of their political functions. But, suddenly, Morgan is told that his parents want him to come home. His mother even comes and picks him up in their helicopter.
Upon arriving at his family’s mansion, Morgan is quick to try and make his stuffy new room feel more like home. He quickly re-decorates with his collection of horror movie posters and memorabilia. He’s also anxious to become a normal family again, but it turns out that mom and dad have other things in mind. You see, dad is slipping in the polls and the election is approaching, but his campaign manager, Jay (Paul Gleeson), knows the perfect strategy. The plan is to promote the senator as a family man…but they need the kid (Morgan) to be front and center for the campaign.
Morgan goes along with it but things are rough. Mom and dad are distant. They take him to boring black tie functions, try to set him up with the daughter of a wealthy campaign donor, and, worst of all, throw away his horror movie posters. Everything Morgan tries to do to please mom, like waxing the floor and cleaning the windows, just gets her more angry.
But his life starts to look better when mom sends him to the mall one day to buy some “suitable clothes.” He gets distracted by a George A. Romero book signing. While he waits in line, a cute girl named Emily (Viveka Davis) jumps into the line next to him and kisses him on the cheek. She didn’t want to wait at the end of the line, so she seized the opportunity to pose as this guy’s girlfriend. But when the two connect over horror movies, a romantic relationship truly does begin.
That night, Morgan sneaks out with his dad’s convertible to take Emily to a screening of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” The night is perfect, except for the fact that Emily’s little brother thinks that Morgan stole the car and calls the cops. By the time Morgan gets home, the police are on site. Morgan ends up grounded and is forced to call Emily to cancel their next date…making up a story about an ailing Grandpa. Now, things get worse as Mom has camera’s installed in Morgan’s room.
But Emily will not give up on Morgan. She shows up at his house the next night, while his parents are out. But disaster strikes when mom comes home and catches Morgan and Emily in the shower together and wearing monster masks. No nasty stuff folks, their in their underwear…this is PG-13, after all. Still, Mom loses it. Now, Morgan is doomed to go to military school. In the course of trying to escape, he realizes that Jay is scheming to frame the senator in a campaign money scandal. Now Morgan has to stop Jay, save his family, and avoid military school.
“Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home” is not in the upper echelon of 80’s teen films, but it is not a bad movie. Apparently, this film was made before Cryer’s star making turn in “Pretty in Pink,” but it wasn’t released until after the success of that film. I’ve stated in other reviews that I’ve always found Jon Cryer to be one of the most likeable and believable of the teen stars of the 80’s, and that is certainly the case in this film. The scene where Morgan and Emily awkwardly giggle and smile at each other while trying to say goodnight after their date perfectly illustrates this. You can tell they want to kiss, but he’s fumbling a bit…it’s very honest. Much more believable than the over-confidence that many 80’s teen characters had…yes Ferris Bueller, I’m talking to you.
To be honest, I saw a lot of myself in Morgan Stewart when I watched this back in the 80’s, when I was a teen. Morgan’s room looked a lot like my room…wall to wall movie posters. Mine weren’t horror movies, but otherwise the same. He finds the perfect girl, who loves the same sorts of things he does, yet he still bumbles his way through getting to know her…just as I would have. I definitely didn’t have the distant parents…but I identified with Morgan Stewart.
I’ve got to give some props to the supporting cast as well. Lynn Redgrave is just a nasty mom. You kind of love to hate her, but it’s good to see her start to come around toward the end of the film. Paul Gleeson…I mean come on, he’s the ultimate teen movie bad guy! He was Vernon in “The Breakfast Club,” and he has some great bone-headed bad guy moments here. But the prize in this film goes to the absolutely adorable Viveka Davis. She just lights up all her scenes. Just like Cryer, she was a more believable 80’s teen character. As a teen, I held out hope I could meet a girl like Emily…Molly Ringwald’s characters were cute, but they were imaginary.
Obviously, “Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home” was a troubled production…what with it’s delayed release and the use of the Alan Smithee credit. One of the film’s reviews on the Internet Movie Database even claims to be from a person who worked as an extra on the film and was given a $50 check that bounced. But this is a fun movie that I can’t help smile at. One of Alan Smithee’s finest moments!