Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Family ties easily severed

Mikey *1/2

I remember watching me some “Mikey” at the tender age of eleven and some details about the film have always stuck with me, electrocutions and bow and arrows and Brian Bonsall from “Family Ties” playing the titular pint sized psychopath. The movie also has some pretty hot looking women in it too which wasn’t something I really noticed on my first go around at 11, but is something that helps tremendously when the movies admirably “getting down to brass tacks” opening slows down a little so we can see Mikey Trenton’s slow burning adolescent psychopath get all heated up for another round of mayhem. Brian Bonsall really elevates things with some foreboding moments here and there where his good manners and eager to please demeanor barely mask the maniac underneath. An IMDb search reveals that Brian Bonsall beat up his girlfriend a couple of years ago and skipped out on a Colorado court date regarding the same and to be honest, I’m not surprised because he’s so good in this role and he looks like a majorly smug little prick, so I guess way to stick with what you know.

Going back to the beginning for a moment, Mikey starts a fire in the basement while his baby sister watches then Mom shows up to slap some sense into Mikey and spirit his little sister away. Mikey talks about how much he hates his mom and his family then he gets mad at his little sister and steals her doll and throws it in the pool. When she steps on the diving board to retrieve the doll Mikey jumps on it so she falls in then he watches her drown, he then goes upstairs and tosses a blow dryer in his mother’s bath then the next shot cuts to him pouring marbles on the kitchen floor while waiting to pounce dear old dad. The payoff for dad’s death scene is great because it leads to a priceless line of dialogue from the detective on the case of Mikey’s family’s mysterious deaths, when the cop sees the father’s bashed in skull and the broken plate glass door he says: “well the door didn’t do that to his head.” The answer is a stunningly obvious “no shit!” but also indicative of the sense of cheesy fun that is missing from the film to make it truly memorable.

In fact, I wish the detective had been a bigger part of the story because it is the only time the movie seems to actively acknowledge how much disbelief we have to suspend in order for the idea of a murderous nine year old to work. It can be done and it can work, but if this guy can be hear to feed off our own misgivings it might make us more apt to enjoy it instead of saying that Mikey is being too ridiculously cold and calculating for a nine-year-old. His first murders seem like a temper tantrum gone awry, I mean he’s smart but it feels different when you don’t see it building up in him the entire time. Some of his calculating moves are kind of amusing, like when he calls a neighbor (Josie Bissett) and puts the phone next to a TV playing one of his filmed murderous rampages, it distracts her long enough that he can go over and kill her boyfriend. I also like how she is set up as the final girl but a simple shove and a “go home Mikey” is actually effective enough to get him to leave. I’ve never seen a less tense final showdown and it’s mainly because I’ve never seen a killer outright give up on someone before. Maybe he really loves her.

Mikey does still manage to take plenty of motherfuckers out though and he even gets tossed around like a rag doll a little bit so you get to see some funny and ultimately ineffective womanhandling of a child. I think "Mikey" has some missed opportunities in that he never imperils other children of his own age. He’s got a buddy that he gets cross with a few times and he never even tries to kill him, but he does steal his pet frog and murder his cat and sneak into his sister’s bedroom. Truthfully, I think killing women is Mikey’s big turn on, killing the men is probably just a necessary evil. In fact, if we were gauging Mikey’s victims by the people who show disdain and disinterest in him first then his body count would only consist of women.

“Mikey” probably isn’t as good as you remember it, but if the fact of it’s existence has ever stuck in your craw then if you’re like me you’re bound to end up watching it again and at least it has some pretty bitches in it that help alleviate the unkindness of time and memory to the movie.

On a more somber note, Mark Venturini, the actor who played the detective died in 1996 and he only had a handful of TV guest spots to his credit so if you ever see this thank him for making it that much more enjoyable. RIP, sir.

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