Saturday, September 11, 2010
OK, so Freshman Father was actually on the Hallmark Channel, not Lifetime, but every now and then you need a break from the same ol' thing. In some ways, Hallmark Channel movies are very similar to Lifetime movies. They feature bad acting, bad scripts, and are so predictable you can settle down for the evening without worrying about having to have an attention span.
But in other ways, they're the exact opposite. The Hallmark Channel likes to believe that people are inherently good, while Lifetime takes the Hobbesian side of that argument (there's never been a "Dial HMC for Murder" marathon). If it's even remotely possible, Lifetime movies will work in a sex scene, even if it's just some sloppy kissing in the bedroom and then a fade to black. Hallmark movies, on the other hand, pretend that sex doesn't exist.
That's why, in "Freshman Father," a 18-year-old can knock up his girlfriend on prom night without anything more than some moon-gazing and talking about being in love. When she tells him he's pregnant, there's no discussion about what they should do--soon young Kathy and John are walking down the aisle, she modestly holding her bouquet in front of her belly while her best friend, never to be seen in the movie again, runs around and takes pictures. John's mother insists that he go to Harvard like he had planned, and because no one has heard of deferment, he arrives in "Cambridge" with his knocked-up wife and their two suitcases full of luggage.
I guess they didn't need any luggage because their "married student housing" comes fully furnished with stylish artwork, fresh flowers in vases, and other touches that make their spacious one-bedroom apartment with an eat-in kitchen and balcony nicer than any apartment I've ever seen of someone under 30. Unlike the Lifetime classic "Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murry Story," the producers didn't even bother going to Cambridge to do any filming. There's one--literally one--stock shot of Harvard from the other side of the river, and then the rest of the movie is filmed on some community college campus that looks like it was it was built about 10 years ago. "Cambridge" is similarly hilarious, with no cars on the streets and the facades of the mall-looking stores painted to look like brick.
After giving birth in a scene that consisted of a nurse saying, "Breathe, Kathy!" and then a cut to her holding her new (2-month-old-looking) baby with the Freshman Father close by her side, Kathy soon decides she's tired of this whole parenting thing. She suggests to John that they "go to Boston" and spend the night at a nice hotel. You know, because it's definitely worth spending the money for a hotel room in a place that's a whole four subway stops away.
It isn't long before Kathy is fed up entirely. "I'm going back to Boise," she announces, "and I'm leaving the baby with you." This is where I really wished this was a Lifetime movie, because it would have been a little more realistic. And yes, I realize how bad it is that this movie was even LESS realistic than a Lifetime movie, where we'd at least get to see Kathy's downward spiral ending with her forgetting the baby in the grocery store or whatever. Over on Hallmark, it's just, "I'm leaving," and then she's never seen in the movie again--not even a custody battle to be had.
John, meanwhile, is failing calculus. Though he was a good-enough test-taker to get into Harvard, he can't even manage a C- in a class that he regularly attends, but luckily for him, the professor gives him a passing grade because he just had a baby. He then recommends that John never take calculus again, because if he gets an F in anything he'll lose his entire scholarship (note to the writers of "Freshman Father"--if your parents have enough money to own a house and car, they have too much money to qualify for a need-based scholarship at Harvard. And it clearly wasn't merit-based, because this kid is a dumbass). However, John is determined to take calculus, because...um, because this movie needs some dramatic tension.
Jut as most of the villains in Lifetime movies start off perfectly nice and affable, then suddenly become mean and unreasonable, in Hallmark movies, the villains start off mean and unreasonable, then suddenly become nice and affable. Such is the case with "Dean Frost," who kicks John out of married student housing because...um, because this movie needs Annie Potts. John moves in with Annie, who plays a tarot card reader with a heart of gold, and proceeds to look after his baby while continuing to fail calculus and working at a bookstore that's supposed to be the Harvard Coop but looks like half of a B. Dalton.
Unfortunately, lil' what's-his-name comes down with that awful baby virus just as John is supposed to be studying for his calculus final, and he spills the bottle of "electrolytes" all over his notebook. He goes to the drugstore, baby in tow, where the hitherto evil dean notices him. Her heart is melted by his good parenting and bland good looks, and even though he fails calculus yet again, she expands his scholarship to include childcare and failing grades. "You're a good parent," she says, like that explains it, even though earlier in the movie she told him he should quit school because there was no way he could put it first.
The movie ends, appropriately, with a completely unrealistic final scene. It's "three years later," and John is graduating with an honor's sash in place--those Fs won't keep a good guy's GPA down!! As he stands up to get his diploma, the entire Harvard graduation is paused for him to let his kid run on stage with him, and everyone stands and cheers because he is the only single parent to ever graduate from Harvard. The End.