The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)

Michelle Pfeiffer in The Deep End of the OceanStarring Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Jackson, Ryan Merriman, John Kapelos, Cory Buck.
Written by Stephen Schiff, based on the novel by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Directed by Ulu Grosbard.

Grade: C-

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

So, you think The Fifth Element was an implausible story? Had trouble believing a romance with a 40-year age difference in Entrapment? Thought the resolution of Sphere was a bit of a stretch? Compared to the premise of The Deep End of the Ocean, those things were completely believable.

Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer), a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, travels to Chicago for her high school reunion with her three children (who goes to high school reunions with their children, anyway?) and promptly loses her three-year-old, Ben. We later find out that Benís been kidnapped and taken away from Chicago to live. Nine years later, the Cappadoras move to Chicago permanently, as does Ben with his new family. OK so far? Now get this: They wind up living two blocks away from one another! In a metropolitan area of millions! Out of all the metropolitan areas in the United States that either family could have chosen!

OK, perhaps I should give The Deep End of the Ocean a break. Obviously there is dramatic potential in a story about a kid being reunited with a family that he doesnít even remember. Somehow they have to set up such a situation. It isnít enough to use just a baby-swapping plot, because the custody in those situations is a messy fightĖand The Deep End of the Ocean is more concerned with the tension within the family, not between the families. The premise is therefore necessary. What is not necessary is the scene of the kid doing a Greek dance at his fatherís restaurant. How incredible is that? A 12-year old suburban basketball-playing kid who knows a dance from Zorba the Greek? I suppose itís possible, but I still found it painful to watch. When your premise doesnít hold water, you need to make sure that everything else in the movie feels 100% realistic, so that the resonance of the story outweighs the implausibility of the situation. Michelle Pfeiffer

All right, Iím being unfair again. Complaining about the Greek dance falls into the category of nitpicking, but it did ruin the scene for me. Even if one makes a few leaps of faith, The Deep End of the Ocean fails to generate much drama. It has potential, certainly, but it never realizes it. It seems just to skim over the story, like a flat pebble skimming over the surface of a pond (or... an ocean?), without ever delving into its depths. The Deep End of the Ocean is a Lifetime movie brought to the big screen. Pleasant at times, but predicable. The acting is good, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonathan Jackson (as the eldest son Vincent) in particular, but it never raises the level of the film. The Deep End of the Ocean is not bad; itís not good; itís just kind of there.

Speaking of predictable, when is Michelle Pfeiffer going to make a movie that doesnít involve kids? Ever since she had children of her own, sheís been surrounding herself with them on the big screen. Thereís nothing wrong with focusing your career on family dramas, but only if you demonstrate the ability to pick consistently good scripts, which Pfeiffer has not been doing. Personally, Iíd love to see her make a thriller right about now.

Review © October 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 Columbia Tristar Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

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