A Family Thing

Bomb Rating: 

Earl Pilcher (Robert Duvall) uses the "N-word" a lot. Of course, this doesn't immediately tell you anything useful since the "N-word" could be "nerd" if you live in Venice Beach, or "nirvana" if you live in Seattle, or "fart" if you live in Poland. But Earl Pilcher lives south of the Mason-Dixon line where the "N-word" can only mean one thing. So when Earl's mother dies and he finds out through a letter that his mother was actually a black woman whom his father slept with a number of years ago, Earl's world of white supremacy comes crashing down. His dead, former mother asks, as her last wish, that Earl find his half-brother and know him as family.

Resembling many an episode of "Oprah," the movie follows Earl's journey to Chicago to find his brother, who turns out to be Ray Murdock (James Earl Jones), a Chicago policeman. Despite the fact that even if they had dipped James Earl Jones in a vat of peach rouge he'd look more like Dom DeLuise than Robert Duvall, director Richard Pearce wants to make absolutely sure we get the "color doesn't matter" theme. Consequently, he makes Ray's aunt, called Aunt T (Irma P. Hall), blind.

Here's a lesson in filmmaking, Hollywood style: Whenever you can't think of a better way to emphasize equality of the races, toss in someone who can't see. That way she can say things like: "I only judge people by what they say and what they do because I can't see the color of their skin" and "Help me to the bathroom. I can't see the toilet and I frequently crap on the floor."

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