In designing Dutch, writer-producer John Hughes lays in some oft-used parts, from the family holiday gathering to the travails of incompatible travelers. In this case, the focus is on Ed O’Neill as Dutch, a salt-of-the-earth guy who’s volunteered to pick up his girlfriend’s snotty kid, Doyle (Ethan Randall), at an elite boarding school and bring him home for Thanksgiving. Little does Dutch know what he’s in for.
Full of rage over his mother’s divorce from his callous but absurdly wealthy dad (Christopher McDonald), Doyle wants nothing to do with either his doting mom (JoBeth Williams) or her new boyfriend, and he spews his towering contempt at working-class Dutch.
The kid is so despicable that even Dutch soon loses his taste for the challenge. Therein lies the pic’s weakness, as the boy’s hateful behavior is so trying that this two-character journey – even with its attendant adventures with fireworks, hookers, tacky motels and homeless shelters – isn’t all that enticing.
O’Neill is well cast as the tough and confident regular guy, but his comic gifts fall short of hilarious, and director Peter Faiman, helming his first project since Crocodile Dundee, never really sets a rollicking groove. Filmed in Georgia, Tennessee, rural Illinois and on LA soundstages, film draws texture and comedy from locations.