Sunday, September 18, 2016

Auteur Watch - Christopher Erskin

Well, after surviving making a music video for R. Kelly, Mr. Erskin cashed in his every last chip to do Johnson Family Vacation.  Now, the more cynical amongst you probably think of it as "Black Griswold" and you just might be right.  But c'mon, man.  It's Cedric the Entertainer!  Who doesn't like him?  Someone pretty damn cynical, that's who!
Alas, the JFV trivia page doesn't dish the dirt on what went down on the set.  No turmoil at all?  I doubt it.  I mean, Close Encounters of the Third Kind had two directors of photography duking it out for dominance.  What happened here?  Was Mr. Erskin completely without a net?  The only sign of calm competence in the face of time running out in sight is this guy right here!  And maybe John Carter (of Mars) on the editing deck.
Anyway, once you've got a big pile of hit on your hands like JFV, either one of two things happens to you as a n00b director in the woods of holly.  Either a) you get a positively yuge A-list project next and go right to work on it, or b) you get fed up with the whole system and go back to your day job and or your day school.  I mean, the phoniness.  The lies.  Everyone saying they love you one minute, then turning their back on you in the second!  As for Mr. Erskin, well... he kinda chose the second.  Another music video, and an episode of a show called "Back to the Future"... I'm sorry, I mean "Phil of the Future."
And then, after ten years of wandering in the desert, searching for another purpose in life aside from film directing... anything.  Anything at all... alas, that second purpose just wasn't turning up in the endless wasteland of burning hot sand.  Back to the director's chair we go.  And what's the project?  Apparently, a Lifetime Channel movie called "Back to the Future"... I'm sorry, I mean "Back to School Mom."  And Strike one: the poster has the letters "HD" in a blue stripe at the top.  Not Blu-Ray (TM), mind you.  "HD".  Don't be fooled.
Strike two: its IMDb page of external reviews.  Fortunately, there's one and... damn, a positive review.  Okay, we got a man on first base then.
Strike three: plot summary, and... damn.  It's short and sweet.  Wasn't expecting that.  Okay, so we got two men on base.  Usually with a thing like this, the plot summary will be something like "Plot summary?  YOU want a plot summary.  Well, here it is, you monsters: this movie is about life.  Life right now.  And how expectations are sometimes not met.  It's about the journey, not the destination.  It's about friends, it's about love, it's about enemies, it's about hate.  But you know what?  At the end of the day?  It's about blessings that can be counted, it's about counting sheep when you're falling asleep, it's about having someone close to you that you care about.  It's about having a job to go to, having food on the table... having a table at all."
In the case of "Back to School Mom," it's about a mom who goes back to college to finish up her last year of school.  Fair enough, sir, as Tom Snyder used to say.  But along the way, she becomes friends with a classmate.  The classmate turns out to be the son she gave up twenty years ago.  Um... I'm with Elaine Benes on this one.  There are degrees of coincidence, and that one's a little too big.

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