Daddy & Them

It's hard to believe the same Billy Bob Thornton who wrote and directed SLING BLADE (1996) also penned this cheesy slice of Southern discomfort. Hot-tempered Ruby (Laura Dern) suspects the worst of her husband, Claude Montgomery (Billy Bob Thornton), especially when he's around her sister, Rose (Kelly Preston), who used to be his girlfriend. Skinny Claude,...read more

Reviewed by Robert Pardi
Rating:

It's hard to believe the same Billy Bob Thornton who wrote and directed SLING BLADE (1996) also penned this cheesy slice of Southern discomfort. Hot-tempered Ruby (Laura Dern) suspects the worst of her husband, Claude Montgomery (Billy Bob Thornton), especially when he's around her sister, Rose (Kelly Preston), who used to be his girlfriend. Skinny Claude, meanwhile, feels that he can't measure up to Ruby's fantasies of muscular dreamboats. But before the couple can head for divorce court, they must put their incompatibility on hold and address a more pressing crisis in Arkansas: Claude's favorite uncle, Hazel (Jim Varney), is awaiting trial on attempted murder charges trumped up by Tommy (Walton Goggins), the suicidal stranger Hazel advised on a telephone hotline. Claude and Ruby hit the road in a motor trip, acccompanied by Rose and by Ruby's mother, Jewel (Diane Ladd, Dern's real-life mom). The Montgomery Clan, headed by senile patriarch O.T. (Andy Griffith), is a model of dysfunction. Fortunately, Hazel is married to British psychotherapist Julia (Brenda Blethyn), who bolsters his positive attitude while admonishing Hazel's kinfolk to start communicating with each another. If Claude's relatives could express themselves more clearly, they might be able to reason with Tommy and get him to tell the truth. And on top of the trauma of the trial, the family is facing the aftermath of a traffic accident that injures Claude and his brother, J.C. (Jeff Bailey), who was at the wheel and under the influence. Messy though the family reunion is, it may be what Ruby and Claude need to ditch their emotional baggage and patch up their shaky marriage. Writer-director Thornton wears his heart on his sleeve and wastes a fine cast (including his then fiancee, Dern) on white trash shouting matches filled with spurious insights.

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