Summertime, and de livin’ is easy…
Ah, summer. And ah, vacation season. Unless one is a too-cool-for-school teenager who’s suddenly allergic to Mom and Dad, especially when there’s someone cute to impress. Katherine Heigl in her pre-Grey’s Anatomy days takes this to the extreme in the 1994 father-daughter comedy, My Father the Hero. It’s an unusual movie, especially for one aimed at teenagers, and just when it seems that it can’t get any weirder, it does. Oh boy, it does.
André arrives in New York City to take his daughter, Nicole on vacation in the Bahamas. He and his wife, Megan (Lauren Hutton) have been divorced for five years and he hasn’t seen Nicole in a year and a half. Megan tries to warn him that Nicole is different than she used to be, but he doesn’t quite get it.
Nicole, or Nicky, as she likes the be called, spies André playing the piano. She smiles at first, but her expression turns sullen very quickly, as it does throughout most of the film. Before they’re even out of New York City, Nicky lets André know she doesn’t speak French anymore, she doesn’t drink Shirley Temples anymore, and she definitely doesn’t want to be seen with her dad while on vacay. This feeling only intensifies when they get to their resort on Nassau and Nicky spies Ben (Dalton James). Nicky tries to be cool and walks into a table.
The awkwardness continues the next morning when André and Nicky go to the beach and meet other vacationers. André is informed by some very worldly travelers from Scranton, Pennsylvania that he doesn’t look French. Not. At. All.
André’s not overly concerned, though, because he sees a guy from the resort band, Pablo (Jeffrey Chea of the Baha Men) hanging around Nicky. All the guys at the pool are giving Nicky the eye, especially when she gets out of her lounge chair to reveal the rest of her thong bathing suit. Later on, André even has to fend off a long-haired fella of advanced age who wants to take pictures of Nicky.
Nicky shakes off his concerns and goes for a walk down the beach, when Ben snorkles up to her. He lives on the island and his parents have a house there. Trying to play it cool, Nicky says she’s eighteen and on vacation with a friend. Ben doesn’t quite buy it and snorkles away.
However, Ben changes his tune at the party the next day when Nicky saunters in wearing a little black dress like she belongs on the catwalk. Rumors are starting to fly about André and Nicky, and none of it is good–they think André is Nicky’s boyfriend. The only person aware of the real story is Diana (Faith Prince) a lady Nicky sets Andre up with.
Nicky’s tangled web gets more tangled when she tells Ben she’s a runaway, with her dad doing time for hard robbery and her mom a prostitute, and André as her knight in shining armor. Ben is aghast, of course, but what he doesn’t know is that Nicky’s parroting something she heard on a talk show.
Pretty soon André is a pariah, with the whole resort giving him dirty looks. He tries to ignore it, though. Ben is not only jealous, but ticked off–when Nicky and Andre go waterskiing, Ben drives like a maniac, with poor Andre hanging on for dear life. Roger Ebert said of this scene, “The possibility that he could simply let go of the rope does not occur to him.”
Andre is baffled as to why people have turned on him, and it isn’t until the night of the resort talent show that he starts getting an inkling. After some tango dancing and the Scranton people doing the “Stella!” scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, Diana urges André to play. Well, André sits down at the piano and taps out the absolute worst song he could have picked, although he doesn’t know it: “Thank Heaven For Little Girls.”
Oops. By the time André finishes, the room is empty, with the exception of Diana, who gives André a round of applause.
Far from being simply in a strop, Nicky is resentful of André for not being there for her since the divorce, and what really drives her over the edge is when André tells her that he and his girlfriend, Isabelle, are talking about getting married. André’s been trying to reach Isabelle the entire vacation, only to get her answering machine.
Nicky runs to Ben’s house, and like the gentleman he is, Ben promises to protect her. He’s thoroughly confused, though, when Nicky decides to go back with André when the latter comes for her.
This is where Nicky’s web gets even more tangled. She comes clean with her dad, but then Ben comes by the next day to talk to André and get Nicky to leave with him. Amazingly enough, though, he remains to praise. In fact, he gets to be such a fan of André’s that Nicky gets jealous, so she tells André to pretend he’s dying. He’s in the final throes of complications from a wound he sustained in the Hundred Years’ War.
Ben buys it. Yep. The proverbial hook, line and sinker. André’s not that into this angle, though, so he tells Ben about his days in espionage, when the KGB was on his tail. Much better, right? The movie gets crazier before it gets clearer, but since it’s a rom-com, nothing is going to go too badly.
My Father the Hero is a cute mess, albeit a slightly disturbing one. Nowadays, André probably would have been arrested by the Nassau police. Still, it’s fun in a dumb way, and may inspire a spit-take or two.
I remember when the film came out it was heavily promoted in Seventeen and other teen magazines, because Katherine Heigl’s career was exploding at the time. She was dating Joey Lawrence, she was a sought-after model, and she had this cool new movie. Watching it as a teen, I thought My Father the Hero was silly, but it ends in the way all teen girls hope a story like this ends, and that’s not a bad thing.
What I didn’t know at the time is that the movie was a scene-by-scene remake of a 1991 French film, Mon Pere Ce Heros. Gerard Depardieu once again stars as André, with Marie Gillain as his daughter, Veronique, or “Vero,” and Patrick Mille as Benjamin. Here’s a clip from the movie. It’s not subtitled, but it’ll still look familiar to those who have seen the American version:
But I digress.
My Father the Hero is definitely not the best movie, but it’s not exactly a waste of time. Gen-Xers might like it for the nostalgia, and anyone born later might like watching Katherine Heigl in her pre-Izzie days.
For more of the Hotter’nell Blogathon, please see Steve at MovieMovie BlogBlog The Sequel. Thanks for hosting, Steve–this was a great idea! Thanks for reading, all, and see you on Thursday with another “Origins” post…