(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing two posters of Smart House and Princess Protection Program, and then showing clips from Smart House)
Doug (vo): So when going over the list for this year's Disneycember, I knew I had to drop one of these two movies to make room. Smart House or Princess Protection? I asked people on my Facebook who grew up with these movies which one they wanted to see, thinking they would say Princess Protection because, hey, it's Disney and princesses, that's just kind of their thing. But overwhelmingly, everyone said Smart House, not just picking that one, but praising that one, like it was actually a legitimately good film. So I popped it in, take a look, and...yeah. It actually kind of is. I mean, okay, it's corny, it has bad effects, and it's clearly aiming for kids, but I found myself legitimately entertained by what was going on and even laughing quite a bit.
Doug (vo): The story centers around a family who, big shock, just lost their mother recently. The son has put it upon himself to take care of the household, and has decided to enter a contest to win a smart house, a home where everything is taken care of by computer. They, of course, win and find that the house is actually quite perfect. Apart from a glitch here or there, it actually seems to do everything for them and seems quite pleasant. But when those glitches do happen, they have to call the inventor, who, it turns out, is sparking a bit of a romance with the dad. The son doesn't like this as he's still getting over the loss of his mother, so he decides to program into the computer, named Pat, that she should be more motherly, hoping the father won't see the necessity of dating. The computer not only complies, but overtime, it gets obsessive. It looks up all the motherly things that mothers are supposed to do and does them times 10. She's strict, but also playful, it forces good morals, but doesn't always practice them when looking after her kids, and, yeah, starts to see the family as her family. When everybody realizes Pat might be going too far, she suddenly turns herself into human form, a hologram protection that decides it's too dangerous outside, and so, she decides to hold the family hostage. It's as crazy as it sounds, but in all the best ways.
Doug (vo): The writing in this movie, at least when it comes to the dialogue, it's not necessarily the best, but they got good actors and a good director to really bring it to life. They can make unfunny lines seem legitimately humorous and take non-emotional scenes and make them actually kind of tearjerkers. The family is not a rotten family. They don't just throw insults at each other all the time like on a sitcom. They actually get along pretty well, and they're likeable, and they have distinct identities, and again, I think a lot of that comes from the acting and the directing.
(Ben Cooper, the son, is shown in several clips)
Doug (vo): The son, for example, in any other movie, would be seen as unrealistic or strange. Why would he be obsessing over keeping the house clean and tidy and such? But the movie and the performances do a great job showing that it really is because he can't fill the void of his missing mother. He sees that when his father wants to date somebody else, it's betraying his mother. That's some heavy material for a Disney film to take on, but by God, they take it on, and they do it seriously. It isn't just the Full House routine where you know, "Oh, this is where you hear the serious moment, and you tune out and they just say those catchphrases." No. They really talk about it, and you really listen. Speaking of Full House, all of these characters and jokes could so easily fall into that category, being too corny and too nice. But there is enough conflict in their everyday lives, and, of course, with the computer and the missing mother, so it never really feels ungenuine.
(Pat, the Smart House itself, is shown in several clips)
Doug (vo): Katey Sagal as Pat is a perfect choice. Every time she talks, it's funny. It's a great evolution going from that robotic voice that could be hilariously obnoxious...
Pat (Computer voice): Certainly, Angie. / Here, boy. Good dog. / Not to worry, Nick. My database was prepared by a team of nutritionists.
Doug (vo): ...to a gradually changing tone of her being this overly-obsessed, even insane, mother.
Pat (Computer voice; now sounding less robotic and more human): Does it hurt like the Dickens, baby? / Nobody goes after my boy and gets away unpunished.
Doug (vo): And when she finally takes on human form, it's even better. Look at that evil smile. That's both funny and terrifying. It's interesting that this movie was directed by LeVar Burton, Geordi from Star Trek. This honestly makes too much sense. Not only did he act on Star Trek, but he directed several episodes, and if you watch Star Trek, you know that a lot of it centers around sci-fi technology, which often ties in to the problems and conflicts that are happening on the ship. Say, a family coming to grips with the loss of a family member while the technology in their lives has created a conflict that ties into that struggle. This guy has had years of watching and directing stories like this, and he does it wonderfully here. The only problems I really have are nitpicks, like there's a scene where Pat wants to torment a bully. In my opinion, it could've been a lot meaner and a lot funnier. There's also a scene where Pat gives a loving look to the boy at the end, even though it's clearly the same look that was done before and was meant to be evil that time.
(That scene of Pat smiling at Ben is shown alongside the earlier scene of Pat smiling evilly)
Doug (vo): Little things like that can kind of get in the way, along with some of the corny effects. But honestly, the story, the characters, and the acting really pull it through. I feel like everything that can and should be done with a kids film about a smart house is done in Smart House. It's a movie kids can watch for the zaniness, but adults can also get a few laughs and even some dramatic moments out of it, too. Not major ones, but just done well enough. The best way to put it, Smart House is a smart flick.
(A scene showing the house vacuuming itself outdoors is shown)