NOT MY KID (1985).
America's so-called "War on Drugs" was in high gear by the mid-1980s, spearheaded by Nancy Reagan's simplistic "Just Say No" catchphrase and grating (not to mention, completely ineffective) media crusade. Meanwhile, hubbie Ronnie was funding Nicaragua's Contras through crack cocaine trafficking and instituting harsh mandatory-minimum drug laws disproportionately aimed at minorities (despite so many white people, including Reagan's own cokehead daughter, getting just as high). One of the made-for-TV movies that helped to fuel this hysteria was NOT MY KID, which premiered on January 15, 1985 and sledgehammered home its story of a 'typical' suburban teen... white... blonde... pretty... but who's also a closet addict!... Director Michael Tuchner (FEAR IS THE KEY) immediately piles on the scare tactics, by opening with teens at a counseling session confessing to first trying drugs in the 5th Grade or getting young children high while they were babysitting them, then cutting to a carload of stoned kids barreling through red lights. Hospitalized following an auto accident, teenaged Susan Bower (Viveka Davis) is uncooperative, while her folks (slumming George Segal and Stockard Channing, seven years after playing a 34-year-old high schooler in GREASE) are in denial -- shocked that their innocent little girl was "spun out" on booze and speed -- and let Susan off the hook following bullshit promises that this was her first and only time. In reality, this chick is hooked and nearly ready to fly off the rails! After Susan's parents discover that she's failing out of school and find her hidden stash box, she beats on her little sister for narcing, runs away from home, ends up in a zoned-out stupor, and is eventually lured to an ultra-strict drug rehab center run by Doctor Royce (DIRTY HARRY psycho Andrew Robinson!), where she'll be supervised by young ex-druggies. Alas, after all of this initial Afterschool-Special-on-steroids fun, the film turns into a strident diatribe full of tedious, tearful monologues and 'positive' sing-a-longs that would make anyone open a vein. But tough cookie Susan still refuses to crack, starts fights and blames all of her problems on peer pressure; that is, until the final reel, when she suddenly has a blubbering mea culpa and cops to a laundry list of pharmacological-fueled sins -- shooting up, stealing dad's prescription pad, and even commiting burglary in order to pay for her abortion!... Based on a story by executive producer Beth Polson (who earlier worked on the preachy NBC documentary GETTING STRAIGHT), Christopher Knopf's teleplay lays it on extra thick and embraces every possible cliché, while Segal (whose floundering career had led to small-screen crap like THE ZANY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD) doggedly tries to bring dramatic weight to the type of barely-fleshed-out patriarch role normally reserved for Conrad Bain or Michael Gross. On the other hand, 15-year-old Davis is so bland that they could've replaced her with a different actress halfway through and I probably wouldn't have noticed. Program residents and counselors include ROAD HOUSE's Kathleen Wilhoute; the future voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright; THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD's John Philbin; plus 14-year-old Shawnee Smith (THE BLOB). Josh Hamilton also gets guilt-tripped by his parents and Kathleen York confesses to turning tricks in order to maintain her habit. But it's 21-year-old Tate Donovan who earns the biggest laughs as Susan's boyfriend Ricky, a blatantly obvious bad influence who sports suspicious punk and heavy metal t-shirts (PiL! Ozzy!), offers grass to her little sister and and even tries to swap Susan for drugs! The cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp (BILLY JACK, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) is strictly television level. So what have we learned today? Parents need to overturn their children's bedrooms regularly and never, ever worry about over-reacting. Siblings should routinely snitch on each other. And wimpy psychologists are a waste of time, because the only effective way to stop your kid from getting high is forcible incarceration and a continual lack of trust.
© 2017 by Steven Puchalski.