THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN
Written by Jacquelyn Mitchard (novel) and Stephen Schiff (screenplay),
The Deep End Of The Ocean is a well-rounded film that features fine
acting and a script that could have gone for the cheap sentimentality, but
is generally more believable than many tear-jerkers of its type. Its ending
takes the easy way out, but this is one of few faults.
Pfeiffer plays Beth Cappadora, a professional photographer from Madison,
Wisconsin, who is not exactly known for being punctual or responsible (hey,
didn't Julia Roberts play this role in Stepmom?).
While she is meeting and greeting old friends at her high school reunion
in Milwaukee, she loses track of her 4-year-old son Ben (Michael McElroy).
Parental annoyance quickly turns to full-blown panic as her ex-classmates
are all enlisted to help search, along with local law enforcement headed
by detective Candy Bliss (Whoopi Goldberg). A few depressing weeks later,
Beth is convinced to go home by Candy and her husband Pat (Williams). Candy
reassures her that the search will continue, and she must get home to her
other two kids, 7-year-old Vincent (Cory Buck, Mighty
Joe Young) and baby daughter Kerry. But she's so depressed she doesn't
do much but sleep. She even gives up photography.
Cut to nine years later: After the family has moved to Chicago, a handsome
young boy named Sam (Ryan Merriman), whom Kerry (now age 9; played by Alexa
Vega) knows from school, comes by to solicit his lawn-mowing services. Beth
recognizes him as the long-lost Ben, and soon proceedings are underway to
reunite the family. But while Beth, Pat, and Candy are all busy patting
themselves and each other on the back, they forget that Sam has grown up
in another family and doesn't even remember the Cappadoras. Transplanting
him back into the fold is tantamount to kidnapping him all over again, and
he's not exactly thrilled. Not to mention that 16-year-old Vincent (now
played by Jonathan Jackson), who has become a juvenile delinquent, has trouble
dealing with the return of his brother, the prodigal son, the apple of everyone's
There are some excellent performances in this movie, not only by Pfeiffer
and Williams, but especially by Jackson as the older Vincent. Though he
is not the focal point of the story, he practically steals the show with
his complex characterization, full of pent-up emotion and inner conflict.
Also effective is John Kapelos as George Karras, the adoptive father Sam
had grown to love. Unfortunately, Merriman is not quite as deep in his portrayal
of Sam. Much of the film's emotional impact hinges on that role; Merriman
could have made it unforgettable, but played his part a little too coolly
to achieve that effect.
The Deep End Of The Ocean is hard to watch for the first half hour or so, but its frank script and good performances make it worthwhile. ****½
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