I don’t normally push into the 2000’s here, but I guess it was just a matter of time. And technically you could argue that this movie’s a reunion of a show from the ’80s so that makes it an ’80s thing. Also it’s almost Thanksgiving here in the US and Thanksgiving happens in this movie, so that makes it make sense, too. It makes more sense than the bulk of The Facts of Life Reunion. If this movie were a project at the Eastland Academy, it’d be a solid D.
Going into this I assumed it would follow a traditional ‘reunion’ format – the separated gang has lost their happiness in their separate lives and their reunion helps them find their happiness that they then take to fix their separate lives. I guess it kind of tries to do that but it gets lost in even more cliche’ sitcom tropes along the way and the whole thing just turns into a mess.
The movie starts with the gang scattered across the world, the most exotic of them all being the intrepid Mrs. Garrett. She’s on a cruise ship, flirting hard with the captain himself, and really the whole reunion is worth it for her dramatic 180-degree reveal. This had to make Charlotte Rae feel good.
Spoiler alert: we’re about 45 seconds in and this quick dramatic take is the highlight of the entire thing. It’s all downhill from here.
The gang all has their own things going on: Tootie’s got a talk show, Natalie’s a high-powered news segment producer, and Blaire’s…still rich. They’re all getting their affairs in order to head back to Peekskill for a Thanksgiving reunion.
Once reunited, the tropes start piling on. Before we get into them, it’s worth noting that Jo couldn’t make it. Her husband brings their daughter to Peekskill, then quickly leaves to “do a couple tracks on the new Backstreet Boys album”, leaving Samantha alone with these women who all smile and nod as if this is a normal thing to thrust upon people. So Samantha’s kind of our Jo, but not really because she’s a kid and does kid stuff the entire time…which is one of the tropes.
So let’s get into it – these are out of order, sort of, but who cares because this movie is a mess anyway.
Natalie’s got two boyfriends, straight-laced rich man Robert and slightly-less-straight-laced rich man Harper. For whatever reason they both show up to Mrs. Garrett’s inn for Thanksgiving and so instead of spending time together over the holidays the girls divide and conquer so that the boyfriends never see each other. It’s not a stretch to say that this is the bulk of the movie; it goes on and on, feeling like an extended Three’s Company episode.
Eventually the secret’s out and the two men are aware of each other. Rather than Natalie and her suitors having a grown-up discussion taking everyone’s feelings into consideration, the gang pitches in to slap together a pageant in which the men try to outdo each other in various categories: a footrace, poetry, “listening”, and a swimsuit competition where the men dance for all the women – including the young girls. All of the females are making cat-calls. The men start a fist fight. At this point the train isn’t just off the rails, it’s crashed into the Walmart in the middle of town.
The movie tries to get its act together as Natalie finally has the grown-up talk, but it’s too late. She picks Harper, and Robert immediately starts to move in on Tootie? Gross.
Dream Marriage With A Secret
When Blaire’s not running interference on Natalie’s love triangle, she’s talking about her perfect rich marriage to her perfect rich man. As the movie progresses she gets a little more suspicious of what her husband – who couldn’t make the trip to Peekskill – is up to. She tries calling him and a mysterious woman picks up the phone, so Blaire decides to go to the city to confront him.
Turns out his big secret is that he’s volunteering with children at a hospital because he always wanted kids, something Blaire didn’t know about. Big drama, right? Easily resolved: they decide to have kids. Seriously, that’s how thin Blaire’s story is. It’s also worth pointing out the bad costuming on the kids. This guy’s got a bleeding headwound, just playing in the rec room!
Kids Acting Out
Jo’s daughter Sam and Tootie’s daughter Tisha are stuck hanging out with each other all week. They also meet a certainly-underage bellboy who I guess both of them have a crush on? It never really goes anywhere in either direction, but keeps getting hinted.
Anyway, they steal Blaire’s car, as you do, and drive into town where they get busted sneaking into Eastland Academy. As you do. This weird aside serves to remind the girls of what’s truly important in life. The viewer’s not really looped in on what that is, though.
The newest addition to the Facts of Life gang is Chef Gauguin, the head of the kitchen at Mrs. Garrett’s inn. We spend more time with the Chef than necessary, as the tension of the main storylines are punctuated with his kitchen woes. Most notably he eavesdrops on Robert’s phone call and incorrectly deduces that Robert is a food critic that the Chef has been expecting. He spends most of the movie trying to impress him, which rewards the viewer with a thin payoff in the final scene.
Also he and Mrs. Garrett start flirting? What?
For a reunion that’s supposedly a long time coming, the gang sure doesn’t spend a lot of time together. Instead they divide and conquer with Natalie, Tootie and Blaire constantly splitting up the love triangle and Mrs. Garrett trapped in her perpetual B-story. The kids are off in their own silo, and everyone comes together in the final ten minutes of the movie for Thanksgiving. Remember Thanksgiving? It’s the whole reason for the movie, the television event, and the reunion. For 80 solid minutes there’s been hardly a peep about Thanksgiving, but it’s here and so are we.
Mrs. Garrett’s son dresses up like a pilgrim. This new costume is presented without comment, and nobody else dresses up.
There’s a touching toast from Mrs. Garrett that highlights the virtues of Natalie, Blaire, Tootie, and nobody else – not even her son.
There’s the traditional Thanksgiving dance party featuring “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters.
The food critic finally shows up, for some reason. Was this necessary?
And so does the cruise captain from the beginning.
And we’re out. Guys, this movie is garbage. I know this isn’t meant to be a prestige production – it’s The Facts of Life, after all – but it could have been much better than this. I can’t imagine this scratching anyone’s itch for more Facts in their lives. The movie of their trip to Australia with the jewel thieves was much more satisfying than this. Here it is, though, if you really need that fix. Happy Thanksgiving.