There is a long tradition in film of what we’ve come to know as the “hooker with a heart of gold.” Probably the most famous example is Julia Roberts’ role in Pretty Woman. With that film having been such a huge success in 1990, it goes without saying that other studios would try to play off of that idea a bit. That brings us to our film today, 1994’s Milk Money.
The story begins with three grade school boys, Frank (Michael Patrick Carter), Brad (Adam LaVorgna) and Kevin (Brian Christopher) who have just one thing on their minds…seeing some boobies. These suburban kids hear that there are women in the city who will gladly show you what they’ve got if you’ve got enough money. So they start collecting their dough and hop on their bikes to go downtown and find a hooker. After asking several random women they end up crossing paths with an actual prostitute named V (Melanie Griffith). She agrees to the proposal…though Frank decides to be a gentleman and cover his eyes at the last moment.
Unfortunately, while the boys were at V’s place, their bikes end up getting stolen. So, V swipes the car of her pimp, Cash (Casey Siemaszko), and carts the kiddies back to the suburbs. Of course, the car breaks down so now she’s stuck in the suburbs. While using the phone at Frank’s house, she meets his widower father, Tom (Ed Harris). Frank tell’s his dad that she’s a math tutor, he doesn’t tell her that he’s letting her sleep in his tree house until the car can be fixed.
Of course, the street smart hooker ends up a bit out-of-place in suburbia. Meanwhile, Tom spends several days trying to fix V’s car while the two gradually become somewhat romantic. This all thrills Frank who only wants to know what it’s like to have a mom. Trouble is on the horizon, though, when Cash ends up dead and a bigger badder pimp (Malcolm McDowell) starts hunting down V because he thinks she has the money Cash swiped from him.
Milk Money was directed by actor turned director Richard Benjamin, who has a strange and varied directing career. Everything from My Favorite Year to My Stepmother is an Alien. I gotta admit, I kept arguing with myself a bit about what to think about this particular film. One big problem with it is that it’s story hinges on some very awkward scenarios. The whole thing kicks off with these three scamps who are supposed to be lovable in that sort of Our Gang meets The Goonies type of way…yet, they think that women in the city will gladly flash their boobie for you if you have a big enough bag of pennies. It’s supposed to come across as cute, but it’s really just creepy. Then there’s also a ton of gags that are rooted in Ed Harris’ character wrongly thinking that Melanie Griffith is a math tutor. So he thinks he’s talking with her about schooling his kid in long division, while she thinks he’s talking about schooling him in…well…something else. It’s not funny, it’s just gross.
At the same time, the film is not a complete disaster. Melanie Griffith is an actress who is a bit hit or miss, but I found myself being somewhat charmed by her performance. It took a little bit of time for me to warm up to Ed Harris in this one, but by the end he and Griffith actually have a certain degree of chemistry. The young actors are also pretty solid, especially Michael Patrick Carter, doing the Haley Joel Osment schtick a few years early. I can’t however, give much praise to the film’s baddies. Casey Siemaszko (who I usually love), Anne Heche and Malcolm McDowell’s performances run the gamut from cartoonish to just plain lazy.
In the end, though I liked elements of Milk Money, I can’t really recommend it. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what kind of film this is supposed to be. It’s certainly not a family comedy (though it was somewhat marketed that way). It doesn’t really work as a romantic comedy either. I guess it just ends up being a film that has a certain sweetness with a big cloud of creepiness hanging over it.