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Dysfunctional Family Overstays Its Welcome in The Dwights

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Feb 15, 2008
Dysfunctional Family Overstays Its Welcome in <i>The Dwights</i>

DVD Release Date:  February 12, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: July 13, 2007
Rating: R (sexual content, language, nudity)
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Run Time: 105 min.
Directors: Cherie Nowlan
Actors: Brenda Blethyn, Khan Chittenden, Richard Wilson, Russell Dykstra, Emma Booth, Katie Hall, Rebecca Gibney

Even though many of its characters were of the paint-by-number, sitcom variety, last year’s Little Miss Sunshine proved there was an audience for a quirky indie film about a dysfunctional family. After all, who can’t relate to the idiosyncrasies of family?

Surprisingly enough, the Oscar committee seemed to like it, too, as Little Miss Sunshine was up for “Best Picture” along with more serious fare like The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Babel and The Queen. And naturally, when something unexpected like that happens for a film like Little Miss Sunshine, it’s not long before copycat efforts follow like the largely unimpressive Introducing the Dwights.

From the beginning, this unconventional family quickly wears out its welcome, especially Jean (Brenda Blethyn), a divorced, overbearing (and that’s putting it mildly) mother who won’t let her show-biz aspirations die no matter how washed-up she is. By day, the fifty-something works as a short-order cook at a nearby canteen, and by night, she’s performing her sexually-charged brand of stand-up comedy at a local venue, Clubland.

When we’re not watching Jean embarrass herself in Roseanne Barr-like fashion (remember her?), she’s meddling in the lives of her two sons Tim (Khan Chittenden) and Mark (Richard Wilson), who has been slightly mentally challenged since birth. Since Jean is used to the spotlight being on her—and her alone—she doesn’t adapt to change well. So when Tim starts dating a pretty blonde named Jill (Emma Booth), Jean does everything in her passive-aggressive power to make the relationship end. While it’s quickly established that it’s her loneliness that’s making her act out, it’s still difficult to feel sympathy for such a self-involved character, something Blethyn pulls off with aplomb as an actress.

Of course, his mother’s growing (and vocal) discontent leaves an easygoing bloke like Tim in a rather tight spot as he’s forced to choose between pleasing his mother and enjoying his life—a decision he doesn’t feel he should be forced to make.  But unfortunately, her actions only prove more manipulative the closer he and Jill become.

And while the idea that change isn’t easy, especially in families, is definitely worth exploring in a film, the script for Introducing the Dwights wastes far too many good opportunities. Instead of spending more time developing the characters and showing their growth through new life experiences, they needlessly focus on Tim and Jill’s sex life in scenes that drag on way too long for comfort or Jean’s latest stand-up crack on how men simply don’t measure up. And because of this under-developed storytelling, the film’s happy-ish ending is just as trite and forced as the premise itself, which doesn’t make the 105 minutes you invest to watch very rewarding—even if the whole dysfunctional family theme hits home.

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Jean is shown tipsy and drunk in a few scenes. Teens and adults frequently engage in social drinking.
  • Language/Profanity: The Lord’s name is taken in vain numerous times, and there’s a constant stream of profanity throughout including the “f” word and frank talk of a sexual nature.
  • Sex/Nudity: One of the show performer’s breasts are shown as she changes after her act. And in addition to abundance of sex-related material in Jean’s stand-up routine, Tim and Jill, who are in their late teens, engage in plenty of fairly explicit pre-marital sex. In one particularly graphic scene, Jill’s bare breasts are shown. Also since Tim is a virgin until he meets Jill, she offers plenty of sexual instruction that’s rather blunt in nature.
  • Violence: Jean throws a few things at her ex-husband in anger. But no one gets hurt physically as a result.