Pumpkin (0)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life.  Among them have been some real stinkers.   I thought I had seen the worst. 

But I must admit that Pumpkin is in a class by itself.  This movie has Francis Ford Coppola’s name on it as co-producer.  If he did have anything to do with it, then this fact alone validates everything that Robert Evans said about him in his autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture.  In fact, however, star Christina Ricci co-produced so she probably should take most of the discredit for this.

 Pumpkin was advertised as a comedy.  Indeed, in the advertisements prominent reviewers are quoted.  “Incisive Satire,” A.O. Scott of the New York Times is quoted.  “Wickedly Funny,” says someone named Dennis Dermody of something called “Paper.” “Hilarious” says Gregory Weinkauf of New Times.  I don’t see how anybody of normal intelligence could describe this movie as anything but despicable. 

Pumpkin, written by Adam Larson Broder, who co-directed with Tony R. Abrams, both first timers, can’t figure out what it is.  Is it a comedy?  Tragedy?  Satire?  Its final message, that a normal, 21 year old can find love and long-lived happiness with someone who has severe mental and physical disability is superficial and childish. 

Pumpkin’s characters are paper mache’.  It’s, oh, so leftwing politically correct in the disdain it casts at the Greek system, the parents of the disabled, and the upper class, all of whom are pictured as lame-brained, self-centered egoists.  It even adds a sympathetic, African American poetry teacher, just so it touches all the friendly bases on the left. 

Frankly, I’m sick of all these nerds who were undoubtedly dinged by every house they rushed finally getting their revenge by taking cheap shots at the Greek system.  Maybe there are some that fill the stereotype these losers try to portray, but my years as a Sigma Nu at UCLA gave me more than the education I was supposed to get in Westwood.  I lived with people who helped me to mature.  We weren’t a bunch of womanizing drunks.  We were a bunch of teenagers growing up and helping each other to grow up.  It was a wonderful adjunct to a college education.  Maybe it had its faults, but I haven’t seen them portrayed on the screen yet. 

But enough of that.  This is about Pumpkin.  Just to show what a stupid movie this is, there’s this guy who drives a car off a 100-foot cliff, plunging straight down with nothing to break the fall.  While in its plunge, it is the subject of not one but two explosions that set the entire car aflame.  I’m wondering why they killed this guy off.  But a couple of scenes later we see the guy in a hospital bed telling the heroine he “may never play tennis again.”  Oh, yeah?  Too bad.  There’s not a mark on this guy.  No burns.  No scratches.  After plunging 100 feet straight down in a car that looks like a torch! 

This starts out like it’s going to be a poorly made and poorly written Legally Blonde (probably the best movie I saw in 2001).  But it’s much worse than that.  It’s dealing with serious subjects, the disabled and how others treat them.  It had a wonderful opportunity to educate and to send a positive message.  Instead it lurches from plastic characters to unfunny incidents, to clumsy attempts at poignancy to, in the end, a finale that is preposterous. 

As angry as I am about this obscene movie, I’m equally angry at the callousness of movie reviewers who give this movie a pass by calling it “funny” or “satire,” or anything else but reprehensible.  Being disabled, and caring for the disabled, are serious problems.  Poking fun at them is not funny.  Making a movie like this, which shows the seriously disabled protagonist, who needs a wheelchair to get around, beating up a world-class athlete in a fistfight, is opprobrious.  To end it by implying that the beautiful, vibrant heroine is going to live happily ever after with someone who is seriously physically and mentally disabled does a disservice to anyone who might believe such a fantasy, and to people who are actually faced with having to deal with serious disabilities. 

This is an intellectually deficient, cowardly movie, willing to diminish mental and physical disabilities for attempts at cheap jokes at the expense of easy targets and to make money.  This movie, which seems interminable as you’re sitting through it willing it to end, tries to demean the disabled, the Greek system, the wealthy, and the parents of, and care-givers to, the disabled who have to devote their lives to caring for these unfortunates, but what it ends up doing is demeaning itself and everyone involved with its production. 

The End