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All's Fair
(1989)

Director: Rocky Lang
Cast:
George Segal, Sally Kellerman, Lou Ferrigno


Though I watch more than my share of bad movies, I still have belief that on a regular basis I will come across a good movie that I would like my readership to share knowledge of. Indeed, for many years now my belief in this has been justified. It probably comes as no surprise that I have beliefs when it comes to movies, but there are other things outside of movies that I believe in. I believe that rock 'n' roll will never die (though it will evolve like it's done through previous decades.) I believe that one day life outside of our planet will be proven in. But one of my biggest beliefs is that we are more or less equal, and deserve many of the same rights. I learned this way back in elementary school. When I was in elementary school, I considered myself much smarter than many of my fellow students. That included reading - I would regularly read material beyond my age group. Then the school district assigned a new reading program for elementary grades. Naturally I assumed I would be put in the top level for my grade. But for reasons I haven't been able to uncover, for some reason I was placed in the lower level. It wasn't just for the grade I was in at the time, but the next grade. And the grade after. And so on. For some reason, it didn't occur to me to question one of my teachers as to why I was stuck in the lower reading level, which I deeply regret - maybe I could have fixed my situation a lot sooner. Finally, one teacher at the school took notice and had me take some tests, which I passed with flying colors, and I was promoted to the highest reader level of my class. However, this happened near the end of my time in elementary school, so I didn't have much chance to savor feeling I was not considered inferior by the administration and my fellow students.

Anyway, one good thing came out of that humiliating experience, and that was that it made me realize that in many aspects of life, everyone on this planet should be considered equal. I know what it's like to feel like I am equal to other people, but all the same not be treated equally. So I can understand why certain people much different than myself can feel unequal, though in ways different than what I've personally experienced. One such group - a big group - is women. I have felt much sympathy for women over the years with how they have been unequal in many ways. For example, women once couldn't vote in elections. Things are a lot better for women now than they have been in years past, though I will admit that there is still some progress that has to be done to make things more equal for women. And I will also admit there are some areas where I don't think it's fair for women to compete directly with men. Take weight-lifting contests, for example. Since a man can bulk up a lot more than a woman, it does seem that there should be separate contests for women in this particular sport. Still, that does not mean that a woman could not potentially be an equal in some kind of manly competition of sorts. I once watched a movie where a mercenary was coaching a newbie about who should first be hit when attacking an enemy camp. It turned out that the people who should be hit first would be the women in the camp. It was explained that a woman who managed to prove herself to male fighters and be considered an equal to them would have to be a real threat, because she would have to be really good at warfare for the male soldiers to trust and accept her.

With that last remark, you have probably guessed that the movie I am reviewing here - All's Fair - is some kind of movie that examines the inequality of the sexes, especially when it comes to the battlefield. As it so happens, it does more or less deal with this. Though instead of being a All's Fairserious examination of these topics, it is more of a comic look. Personally I would have preferred a more serious look, but I have to admit that the comic take the movie promised did intrigue me in its own ways. But the subject matter and the comic look were not what sold me into watching the movie and writing a review of it. It was the movie's cast. What other movie can you think of that combines George Segal (Just Shoot Me), Sally Kellerman (Slither), Lou Ferrigno (Sinbad Of The Seven Seas), and Robert Carradine (Revenge Of The Nerds) in its cast? Well, I have to admit that it does indeed sound like some kind of disaster. But we have all looked on with fascination at car wrecks in real life, and with that in mind I thought that at the least the movie would provide a lot of material for a full length review. The plot: At the Hunky Chunk Candy Company, there is a lot of unhappiness with company executive Ann (Jennifer Edwards, S.O.B.) The company president (played by Segal), who is referred to as "Colonel" by everyone, organizes regular weekend war games for his male executives. The executives who perform well at these war games usually find they are rewarded with promotions within the candy company. But the games and the rewards of promotions are strictly for the males - Ann is left out of both the games and the subsequent promotions. Finally, Ann has had enough of this glass ceiling. She decides to organize the wives of the company's male executives into a combat-ready force that will take on the men and defeat them on the battlefield. Getting help from Florence (played by Kellerman), the estranged wife of the Colonel, Ann and the wives band together and hire Klaus (played by Ferrigno), a professional mercenary, to teach them the art of war. But even with this help, it soon becomes clear that the women have a tough challenge ahead of them.

Some time ago I reviewed the 1965 movie Billie, which was another movie about a woman fighting to be treated as an equal. Watching that movie, I was able to believe the inequality the title character was experiencing - it was the 1960s after all. But when I sat down to watch All's Fair, I have to admit that I kind of had doubts about the prospect of being able to believe the gender inequality in this movie - things in real life had seriously improved for women in the near 25 years between the making of both movies. Still, I can't say that gender inequality has been eliminated even after 25 years has passed since All's Fair was made, so I told myself to be open. At least as long as the movie took care with key elements, like the characters. So how believable are the characters? I'll first start off with the female characters. To some degree, the movie has sympathy for some of the women in the movie. The character of Ann is portrayed as being intelligent and not overbearing both in and out of the workplace, clearly deserving some kind of positive recognition by the various men in her life. And Florence is shown to have a good amount of savvy in various aspects of her life, and she too comes across as a positive figure. But as for the rest of the women in the movie, that's different. While it's true that the corporate wives eventually prove themselves to be worthy opponents, the movie devotes a lot of time beforehand (and sometimes afterwards) to mocking them. This ranges from the women being afraid of getting dirty to stupidly wondering out loud if they will have to fire guns. And yes, there is the inevitable scene where one woman complains about breaking a nail on their hand during the climatic battlefield combat against their husbands. I'm not saying that the women in this movie should have been treated completely seriously - anyone can be made fun of as long as it's done right. But the movie more often than not mines stereotypes concerning women more than getting creative and smart looking at them.

The biggest problem I had with the women is that the movie makes very little effort into making them real characters. Except for Ann, Florence, and another corporate wife by the name of Linda (Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm In The Middle), none of the women on the team are fleshed out. That is, if you don't count the female battlefield referee, who is "fleshed out" by making her a stereotypical fat (and cranky) figure. I will say that the female members of the cast do make a professional effort with the little they're given. They certainly give better performances than the men in the cast. George Segal outrageously overacts all through the movie, except for one point of the movie where his character mysteriously disappears for over a half hour of the running time. His goofy attitude makes it hard to believe that he's both respected by his male peers on the battlefield and in the corporate office. The character has been written also to be extremely sexist and disrespectable to women, which makes it hard to believe he managed to land a wife (though it's easy to see why they are estranged when the movie starts.) Robert Carradine, who plays Mark, a co-worker of Ann who is competing for the promotion she wants, isn't much better in his attitude, coming across as quite the slimeball when he puts down Ann and womenhood in general when he's not trying to seduce her in and out of the office. As for the character of mercenary Klaus, while he has been written to be very supportive of the women he's training for battlefield combat, these good intentions are almost completely destroyed by Lou Ferrigno's awful performance. I know Ferrigno in real life struggles with a disability that sometimes gives him slurred speech, but in this movie he sounds near incomprehensible at times, almost as if he is in pain being on this project.

It doesn't take long into watching All's Fair to come up with a reason why Ferrigno may be in great discomfort. Despite the movie boasting five writers in its opening credits, it seems that none of them were able to come up with a decent gag in the movie's ninety minute running time. I don't know about you, but I don't find anything funny with crushing cockroaches with a shoe, Klaus' vehicle sporting a bumper sticker that reads "Yea! Grenada!", women repeatedly kicking a dummy in the groin, or men in three piece suits vigorously exercising. Those examples I have told you best sum up the level of humor found in the screenplay. But the repeatedly inept execution of these scripted moments makes the humor somehow even worse than it reads. For example, an (off-screen) dog is heard barking at Klaus when he first arrives to train the women, then all of a sudden is heard whimpering for no reason at all. Even an first time director would have known to show Klaus first do something like make a sudden and deadly stare in one direction. Though this oversight might be explained by earlier in the movie, where Florence arrives at a meeting of the women via a helicopter; we hear the helicopter, but we don't see it. As you've probably guessed by these examples, director Rocky Lang wasn't exactly working with an ample budget. Though I said the movie runs ninety minutes long, it feels that a lot of the movie is missing. Important scenes, like just how the corporate wives are recruited by Ann and Florence, are simply not anywhere to be found. And in the scenes that are in the movie, there is a consistently cheap and tacky feeling. To make matters worse, Lang directs the majority of the movie in a tired fashion, lacking spark and a feeling of fun, especially in the lame climatic sequence that really needed to be over the top. I've tried to be fair with my review of All's Fair, but the movie is so relentless with its badness that I think it would be unfair for anyone to inflict the movie on any audience.

(Posted March 26, 2018)

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Maxie, Million Dollar Mystery, Night Patrol

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