17 August 2004 | Poseidon-3
The Yawner Party
Based on a true story (but with certain elements altered to enhance the tribulations and drama), this family-geared film details the ordeal of seven children who must fend for themselves on the way to Oregon when their parents die. Martin and Collings are a farming couple with six children (and another one soon on the way) who decide to head west to the Oregon territory where rich, spacious land awaits anyone who's willing to make the tumultuous trek there. Their oldest son (Petersen) is continuously in one sort of trouble or another from mischievousness to laziness to stupidity. Naturally, it falls to him to care for his siblings when his parents pass away in quick succession. He is determined to reach Oregon and build the home his father always wanted (containing the stained glass windows his mother treasured.) The kids face all varieties of danger from raging rivers to untrustworthy Indians to exposure from wind and snow. A story like this certainly has potential and it gets off to a decent enough start (mostly thanks to the more seasoned acting of Martin and Collings.) Eventually, though, the film turns trite, dull and ridiculous as these tiny kids conquer the old west while adults drop like flies around them (this is NOT how it happened in real life.) Some of the good things about the film include a relatively tense Indian skirmish, an okay musical score and authentic locations. Bad qualities include horribly amateurish acting from the children (most of whom are related in real life), a low budget, awkward direction and an occasionally absurd script. Martin, a bit more weathered than in his heyday, but still attractive, does a decent job as the dad. Oddly, he looks healthiest and most robust when he's about to konk out and die! (His death scene is really bad. It's a shame he didn't check out Shelley Winters in "The Poseidon Adventure" for pointers.) Collings gives a far more solid and assured performance than her scant resume would suggest. She gives the film its small amount of warmth and class. Ray, in a very blustery performance, runs hot and cold as the wagon train's resident doctor. Actor/Stuntman Smith pops up (preposterously) through the film as Kit Carson. The only other performer of note is the reliable character actor Griffith as the children's uncle. There's just enough of a seed of a good idea to demonstrate that this could have been a great movie, but it isn't. It's just OK. Pat Boone sings a treacly song over the credits and has discernible trouble getting to the various notes of the melody.