Quite simply, “It Takes Two” is just too cute for words. This contemporary spin on Mark Twain’s public-domain “The Prince and the Pauper” and the less classic “The Parent Trap” from Disney is a tale of love and friendship and fun tied up in the niftiest little bow. And even if Steve Guttenberg and Kirstie Alley are a little long in the tooth as young lovers, those pixieish Olsen twins — Mary-Kate and Ashley — are oh so adorable.
Still, the film’s underlying sentiment is conveyed effectively, if obviously. Boosted by the twins’ television following, the picture should open reasonably well and rack up OK theatrical returns and strong play on cassette and cable.
The hoary storyline presents Amanda (Mary-Kate Olsen), a tough-talking, streetwise 9-year-old orphan, in search of ideal foster parents. Her favored choice for mom is social worker Diane (Alley). But the woman lacks a beau or the financial wherewithal to fit the bill, even though she considers her ward too cute for words.
Alyssa (Ashley Olsen) is the daughter of cellular phone magnate and widower Roger Callaway (Guttenberg). She’s a tad theatrical, but essentially refined and proper. However, her mettle is put to the test when dad announces his engagement to shrill socialite Clarice Kensington (Jane Sibbett). The convenient juxtaposition finds the two young girls being crated off to upstate New York’s (actually rural Ontario’s) Lake Minocqua — Alyssa to a family estate and Amanda just across the lake at Camp Callaway for deprived kids.
Coincidence is all-important in “It Takes Two.” Amanda winds up at the presumably haunted Callaway home on a dare just as Alyssa has run off rather than face the torture of the impending engagement party. Of course each is mistaken for the other, and both experience a shock that sends them running back to safety and literally head-on into each other.
As the picture relies on contrivance more than character, one has to suspend disbelief regularly. [ There’s truly no credible reason for Amanda’s inability to land a good family, and no earthly explanation for the attraction between nice guy Roger and the shrewish Clarice. ]The whole notion that two identical but non-biological twins might exist in close geographic proximity will have to be addressed in some other pic.
Neither writer Deborah Dean Davis nor director Andy Tennant has the panache or skill to elevate this enlarged sitcom into graceful farce. The jokes are, without exception, right on the cute little button nose. It’s really the charm and charisma of Alley and Guttenberg that keeps the film from total descent into cotton-candy sweetness. Even the dependable Philip Bosco, as the Callaway Man Friday, has to fight valiantly to retain a shred of dignity in this generally insipid effort.
The entire confection is served up with a vapid, glossy sheen. There was a germ of a good movie in “It Takes Two” that simply got bogged down in plot, reducing its cast to predictable caricatures and the movie to forgettable family fodder.