5 May 2000 | Michael-110
Arkin is terrific as a lawyer turned auto mechanic who represents a teen intervening in his parents' divorce case.
Lots of films and television shows explore divorce (and its prequels and sequels) from the point of view of the adult participants but few explore it from the point of view of the kids. The normal speech that parents give to their kids is that children are better off when their quarreling parents split than when they caged together. Fourteen year old Chris Mills rejects that idea. He's firmly convinced that his parents are wrong to get divorced; with some work their marriage can be saved. And Chris and kid sister Jenny will have an intact family. But nobody's listening.
So Chris takes an unusual tack--he gets his own lawyer to fight the divorce. Enter Archie Corelli, played by Alan Arkin (who also wrote the script). Archie's a lawyer who abandoned the law because he decided that our justice system hides rather than finds the truth. He's much happier running his car repair business. However, he agrees to represent Chris for a $10 fee. Chris' grandpa (the familiar Donald Moffat) agrees to be Chris' guardian ad litem in the suit and Chris files a motion to intervene in his parents' divorce case, arguing that he is a third party beneficiary of their marriage contract. Needless to say, both parents and their lawyers are outraged about his meddler into their private affairs.
Strangely, this little made-for-TV drama turns out to be quite touching. The two child actors are quite strong and Arkin is terrific. And the subject is a very serious one--half of all marriages end in divorce and a high percentage of children suffer at least one highly disruptive divorce. More often than not, the kids wind up in a household headed by their mother and suffer a radically decreased standard of living. Their relationship with the non-custodial parent is badly disrupted, perhaps destroyed. All kinds of psychological, social, and financial pathologies are likely to result.
And one last word in favor of Archie Corelli--an idealistic lawyer fed up with law practice who takes a case essentially pro bono because he likes the client and because he thinks that the legal system just might deliver a little bit of justice for once. We don't see too many lawyers like Archie in the films and television shows of today (and maybe not in real life either). Arkin deserves a lot of credit for creating the role.