I’ve lost a hero today. No matter how crazy he appeared, I always thought Sean Penn was all about honesty and integrity. He never went for the typical studio Oscar-pandering holiday “prestige” film. Now, thanks to writer/director Jessie Nelson (the perpetrator behind “Corrina, Corrina”, “The Story of Us”, and “Stepmom”), he’s playing an autistic/mentally-challenged Beatles-obsessed man locked in a custody battle for a lovable 7-year-old tow-headed moppet. See, she just passed her father in mental capacity and the melodramatic hijinx begin. Better yet, Michelle Pfeiffer plays Penn’s high-strung, big-time attorney having a hard time being a parent, and Dianne Wiest is the agoraphobic, former piano-prodigy neighbor. All the film needs is a dying gay man, a mystical Negro, a troubled undercover cop, some British accents and a war and we’d have the entire decathalon of clichéd horse-s**t.
While you might find something salvageable in the idea of a mentally-handicapped man raising a child of normal intelligence, most people realize their parents are idiots and are embarrassed to be around them anyway by the age of 12. This movie is every bit as painful as it sounds. There were at least 10 times throughout the screening that I felt like putting my fist through a plate glass window. Sure, it would have hurt, but at least it would have taken my mind off the pain in front of me. Is this what Sean Penn has come to in his 40s? He hasn’t appeared this retarded since he was married to Madonna. At least there are a couple of gems on the wall-to-wall Beatles cover soundtrack. Save your money for that.