The War At Home

on November 22, 1996 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   Does America need yet another film about the Vietnam war, especially from an actor/director who was just a child at the time of the conflict? Emilio Estevez certainly thinks so; word is that he agreed to do a third "Mighty Ducks" movie only if he were allowed to helm this close-to-his-heart drama. But the result adds nothing to the cinema's Vietnam pantheon; stacked against "The Deer Hunter," "Coming Home" and "Apocalypse Now," it's downright embarrassing.
   Estevez portrays Jeremy, a supposedly shell-shocked vet who has returned home to Texas and is driving his loving family crazy. None of them--not his religious mother (Kathy Bates), domineering father (Estevez papa Martin Sheen) or mildly rebellious sister ("Father of the Bride's" Kimberly Williams)--understands his problems. The troubles in their relationships come to a head during the 1972 Thanksgiving holiday.
   Adapted by James Duff from his play, "The War at Home" doesn't have an original or illuminating thought. Its family dynamics are sloppy, and the film keeps shifting characters' personalities and its take on them (e.g., the movie isn't sure whether to patronize or empathize with Bates' conservative mom, so it does both). "The War at Home" also skimps on atmosphere; Estevez jarringly inserts a few classic '60s rock tunes but succeeds only in tarnishing their memory. And the actors fare no better. Estevez the thespian thinks looking anguished and tired is a substitute for displaying real pain; Bates and Williams' characters are dully one-dimensional; and, although his character is marginally more complex, Sheen here gives one of his pompous performances in which he tells the audience what to think instead of allowing them to intuit his role. Sheen's turn is a metaphor for the movie: There's not a genuine, unforced moment to be found. Starring Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Kathy Bates and Kimberly Williams. Directed by Emilio Estevez. Written by James Duff. Produced by Emilio Estevez, Brad Krevoy, Steve Stabler and James Duff. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated R for a war-related shooting, an intense sequence of violent threat, and language. Running time: 125 min. Screened at the Toronto fest. Opens 11/22 NY/LA
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