Stephanie Bradt: I had the privilege of re-watching Smart House (1999) and I was relieved to find that I still like it. It is still in my top 3 DCOMs. This is also probably the one I remember best so either it really made that much of an impression on me when I was a youngster or I watched it 37 times. Or both.
So I press “Play” and I’m watching the opening titles and WHAT?! Apparently LeVar Burton directed this film. I even checked to confirm that it was that LeVar Burton. I didn’t know he even know he directed movies. So right off the bat, I like this movie even more now compared to 20+ years ago, which I don’t think ever happens. Anyway, we open with the ubiquitous DCOM star Ryan Merriman as Ben and his cute and sassy little sister (check), who also played the cute and sassy little sister in Brink. We also learn that the mom is no longer living (check).
Ben misses his mom and is very protective of the family staying the way it is, so he is being a—I won’t use the vulgar term that I’m thinking of right now, but Ben is doing his best to sabotage any potential dates his father might have by tying up the phone line all hours of the night with his web-surfing. (Dial-up; how quaint). He enters a contest and is awarded the title “Smart House,” a big cool house run by artificial intelligence (call her Pat). Pat is basically the Siri or Alexa before their time. As with many other stories involving robots, Pat gets out of hand and we learn once again that technology can be scary and that in a family, you just can’t replace human beings.
- We get a lot of 1999 technology action between the old school instant messaging, entering contests via “electronic mail,” and letting the house phone’s answering machine pick up the call when you’re on your way out.
- I was pleased to see that they live in a normal-ish, somewhat modest and less extravagant house than people normally do in these movies, but I guess that was just so that it could be a better contrast to their eventual Smart House. Why bother winning a house that is less awesome and cool than the one you’re already living in?
- The music! Even over 20 years later, the stupid “Jump, jump, the house is jumping” song is branded into my brain. I can’t think of this movie without thinking of that song and being transported back to 1999. And yes, I had that B*Witched CD back in the day. Not to mention the score—they took the mockingbird song and made it totally creepy as Pat got creepier.
- The floor absorbers are introduced in the beginning of the movie, but then later on when Pat helps the kids clean up by using the floor absorbers, they are like “Wow!” Um, you knew about this already…
- I forgot all the little romance stuff but I enjoyed it
- Ben and his friends perform a little dance routine while watching a concert video (“kick-butt video screen). Even then, I wondered: Do 13-year-old boys even like, much less have a choreographed dance to, boy bands?
- I thought everything is better now because Pat won’t go rogue and mess with their lives anymore. Yet she slips chocolate chips into their pancakes at the end! First it’s chocolate chips; next it will be like arsenic or something. We’ve seen how scary and powerful is capable of being! I’m just being paranoid? Okay.
Jordan Bradt: I remember this being a good movie from my childhood. Not a favorite, but good. I watched if there was nothing else on. This time around, it was still a solid movie, but the characters didn't really grow or learn anything. It was more about being a preteen's dream.
1) As a kid, I thought the features of the house were wicked cool. As a 32-year-old woman, they com with a lot of questions. Where does the garbage go when its absorbed into the floor? Its creepy how much the house can tell from a blood sample and breathalyzer. The government could hack into that and know way too much about you. Also, how does the smart house get the groceries it uses to make all the food?
2) If the house can tell you how to better play basketball, can it also tell you how to have better sex? I would never want to have sex in this house.
3) What does the dad do for a living that he can pay the taxes on the smart house and afford to keep their old house?
4) I would have liked it if they had no real choice except to move into the smart house. Like, they were about to lose their apartment to the building of a new hospital...or they needed a bigger house...or their house was falling down.
5) Dad was just plain horny. He didn't know anything about Sarah, at first, except that she was hot. He just wanted to get in her pants through the entire movie.
6) The bully demands Ben to do his homework before lunch...but then Ben doesn't give it to him until the following day.
7) In the beginning, Dad is shown as being a doting father, but he never knew about the bully? Even Ben acts surprised that Dad didn't know he was being bullied.
8) The house came fully furnished...even with furniture for a teenage boy and preteen girl? Did the house materialize the furniture?
9) When images are displayed across the walls, where do the pictures and posters go?
10) How does the golf ball disappear into the wall one minute and the next golf ball ricochets around the house?
11) How many days have gone by? Ben never brought his friends over to the house? The friends, who knew all about Ben winning the smart house, didn't know it was a smart house?
12) If Pat is in maternal mode, why does she throw Ben a rave? What kind of "good" mother does that? She learned from watching vintage sitcoms, and I'm pretty sure June Cleaver never threw the Beaver a rave.
Overall, it is a good preteen movie, and the ending was nice.