In "Bye Bye, Love," three divorced male friends--a cynic, a romantic and a philanderer--try to combine dating and fathering over an eventful weekend, after which they decide they know more about divorce than the pop psychologist on the radio. (Rated PG-13)
Kids didn't hate this movie. They didn't say they were disappointed, exactly. But let's face it: How enthusiastic could they be about a story in which children serve as mere props to their fathers' enlightenment?
"It was kind of funny," said Ryan Garcia, 10. "But it was more, like, for adults, though."
My guess is the film's target audience is probably not kids, but male adults, specifically fathers who have been divorced at least once. And their mothers and their girlfriends. Or maybe there is no target audience, and the producers, writers and director were just venting.
In any case, while there is less ex-wife bashing than you might find at a fathers' rights workshop, the cynicism, territorial violence and sexual narcissism make up for it.
Most kids, underwhelmed, gave it a B.
Andrea Aswad and her friend Jennifer Allen, both 12, said they were misled by TV commercials to expect a comedy.
"I thought it was going to be funny, but it was really sad," Jennifer said. "It focused on divorce."
Many scenes of children of the '90s were poignant indeed. One young boy wakes up in the middle of the night wanting only a glass of water but finds his father (Dave, played by Matthew Modine) undressing his girlfriend of the week. "You should get them name tags," he tells Dave later. "It would make it easier for us."
Another toddler cries and holds out her arms to her father, Vic (Randy Quaid), as he drops her off at his in-laws. "Now remember, Honey," he tells her, "Everything Grandma and Grandpa say about Daddy is not true. Not true. Not true."
A teen-ager rages against her "birth father," Donny (Paul Reiser), for having left her and her mother. Driven by her anger and confusion, the 14-year-old gets drunk and tries to drive a car back to the home she and her parents once shared.
The movie has the feel of a TV sitcom with more explicit sex. The issues and most of the humor, if not R-rated, are still adult-only.
Vic suspects his wife is spending her child support money on herself. "I see you're driving the child-support-mobile," he says. When he goes out to dinner with a blind date (Janeane Garofalo), she tells him she's not looking for a relationship, just "a mammal." He destroys a deck he built on his ex-wife's house because he saw her young boyfriend lounging on it.
There is also a fair amount of angry language, some of it directed at the kids. And smoking appears to be making a comeback.
Some kids said they were distracted by a subplot concerning a young fatherless manager at a McDonald's, the designated Saturday morning kid-exchange site, and a 70-year-old trainee, a widower who takes the boy in.
Jennifer said she understood the point.
"He, like, lost his wife; he had no kids. He and the boy made a family."
Neither Jennifer nor Andrea has divorced parents. But they suspected the movie, sad for them, might be genuinely painful for others.
Said Jennifer: "I don't think I'd recommend it to people whose parents are divorced."