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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael
Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael
Paramount // PG-13 // June 5, 2007
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jamie S. Rich | posted May 25, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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THE MOVIE:

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael came in the last string of high school movies that Winona Ryder made before graduating into more adult roles. It was released in 1990, which just so happened to be the same year I graduated, so I guess it made a certain kind of sense that I liked the movie back then. I also had a crush on Ryder and a thing for misfit girls who dressed all in black. This made me an easy mark as far as the box office was concerned. (I liked it so much, in fact, the main characters in my first novel go to see it on a date and identify with Ryder's predicament as an outcast.)

I just hope I've aged better than Roxy Carmichael. While I'm not the boy I was, I'd like to think I could look back at that kid and see he's not so bad. Not so for this movie. It's not atrocious, by any means, but it's definitely got problems. It's both overly simplistic and overly complicated, like a couple of After School Specials mashed together, stacking up too many dramatic issues to tackle with the easy, hollow solutions provided.

Ryder plays Dinky Bossetti, the local teenaged freak in Clyde, Ohio. She not only dresses all in black, but she's painted the walls of her room black, as well. The other kids laugh at her and throw food at her in the cafeteria, but she likes to pretend she isn't bothered by it. She's created a little hideaway for herself down at the lake, using an abandoned boat as her own Dinky's Ark, gathering unwanted animals and giving them a home. Dinky has an affinity for these strays, as she was adopted herself and never knew her real parents. She has a pig, a goat, a turtle, and a bunch of dogs. It once struck me as an adorable contrivance, but now that part of the plot just seems like a contrivance, plain and simple. No one is going to notice a pig running loose? That doesn't make sense, not in a small town like Clyde, where everyone gets up in each other's business on an hourly basis.

In fact, the whole of Clyde is all atwitter, because their long-lost daughter, Roxy Carmichael, is coming home for the first time in 15 years to dedicate a beauty/drama school she paid to have built in her hometown. Everyone is freaking out that such a rich and famous person is coming to Clyde. School is cancelled, a ball is planned, and the local stores put on sales in her honor. Old rivalries are rekindled, as is the romantic yearnings of the lover she left behind. Denton (Jeff Daniels) is still recovering from the wounds Roxy inflicted. Not even a wife and two kids could patch up the holes. This news has so disconcerted him, he alienates his family and becomes an outcast not unlike Dinky, whom he befriends. He tells her the deep dark secret of the child he and Roxy had together, a premature baby he left on the hospital steps. Dinky becomes convinced that she was Denton and Roxy's lovechild, and she believes that Roxy is coming back to Clyde to take her away.

The stuff with Daniels and Ryder is still really strong. Both give outstanding performances. Daniels for once isn't playing the sidekick or the goofball, but he's getting some real emotional meat to sink his teeth into. When his wife (Joan McMurtrey) leaves him, he collapses on his lawn in a defeated heap, and it's terribly sad to watch. For Ryder, Dinky is kind of the quintessential adolescent oddball role. By this point she could have easily performed the part on autopilot, but she does a lot to distinguish the character from the others she has played. Though her turn in Mermaids that same year gave her a more complex dramatic arc, Dinky's quirks are probably more memorable. The way Ryder almost physically turns in on herself as a coping mechanism to turn the rest of the world away is a brilliant harnessing of body language to define a character.

It's all the stuff that goes on around Dinky and Denton that falls flat. I think a lot of it is down to clumsy, pedestrian direction. Though the screenwriter and executive producer, Karen Leigh Hopkins, has quite a resume when it comes to young adult genre pictures (she's still at it, having written the recent film Because I Said So), the director Jim Abrahams does not. He's more known for writing and directing slapstick parody movies, ranging from classics like Top Secret to excrement like Jane Austen's Mafia! A young girl's first romance is delicate stuff, and the man behind both Hot Shots movies is not someone I'd think of calling when I need a light touch.

The stuff about the small town comes off as hackneyed, and the whole love affair with Roxy Carmichael never comes together. It takes us half the movie to get an explanation of why she's so famous, and when it arrives, the audience is with Dinky in not believing it's that big of a deal. The woman didn't actually do anything, she only inspired a hit song. Since we've heard the song (as performed in the movie by Melissa Etheridge, who contributed several numbers to the picture), we even know that it's not that good, certainly not enough to build a fortune on. Various townspeople are shown obsessing over the forthcoming reunion, including a lengthy subplot about two women in a hidden lesbian relationship, one of whom apparently had a tryst with Roxy. None of this seems necessary, nor is it particularly entertaining. It drags Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael down, distracting us from what's actually working.

Even so, as fluffy coming-of-age stories go, you could do worse than to watch a mediocre one with Winona Ryder from back when she was the queen of the genre. For all the cliche palaver we have to wade through to get there, the emotional climax of Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael still feels right, and Daniels and Ryder manage to use it to walk away from this minor pile-up with their heads held high.

THE DVD

Video:
The widescreen video transfer of Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is workable. For a lower-echelon catalogue title, Paramount has done a solid job. There is some minor edge enhancement, and the occasional color tone that's a bit hinky, but other than that, the image quality is pretty good.

Sound:
One audio option: English in 2.0. Again, this is solid. The dialogue comes through sharply, but a couple of times when one of the Etheridge tunes kicked in, I had to turn the sound down because the volume definitely went up. You can also turn on English subtitles if you so desire.

Extras:
Goose egg. Not even trailers.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
There are some cute concepts in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael. Winona Ryder gives an intelligent, quirky performance as Dinky, a freak in a small town who is just looking for a place to belong and be loved. Jeff Daniels also stands out as a broken-hearted man who is confused about how to deal with the fact that his ex-lover is coming home after fifteen years. Unfortunately, it's that whole coming home part that sends the film off the rails. The myth of Roxy Carmichael just isn't believable, and uninspired directing makes the movie feel more like an After School Special than a theatrical motion picture. Still, it does have a decent emotional payoff, and the performances of the two leads make Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael easy to sit through. Rent It

Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.

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