Monday, April 7, 2008

Not Our Son

What, you're too good to watch a Lifetime movie on a Friday night? Well, lucky for you, my ideal Friday night is in front of the tube watching has-beens and never-weres chew the scenery. You're welcome.

Friday's film was based on a true story. Not Our Son follows the investigation of serial arsonist Paul Kenneth Keller. Keller had started dozens upon dozens of fires. And who made the break in the case? His own family. Betrayed by loved ones! Surely this will lead to compelling drama!

Alas, no.

The film opens over some stock footage of Seattle. Apparently, the city is under siege from an arsonist. One woman calls into a radio station to complain that her children have nightmares every night and cry for help every time they think of an open flame. These children need to grow a pair.

We're introduced to Paul at his office. He works in the family advertising firm and it's clear that something isn't quite right with him. He has a short temper and is enveloped by paranoia. He is going through a messy divorce and his car has been repossessed. To make matters worse, he spills coffee on some important documents right before a meeting with the big client!

The meeting starts off poorly but Paul takes initiative and ends up closing a big ad campaign. Finally, things are starting to turn around our ol' friend Paulie. But when the client buys Paul a new car, he immediately smells a rat. Who told the client about his repossessed car? Why are people talking behind his back? To get answers to these important questions, Paul physically assaults his sister.

Paul storms off. When his father/boss hears of his erratic behavior, he decides it's time to lay down the law. And you know the dad is a disciplinarian. Why? Because he isn't some regular dad. Oh no. He is a the MAJOR DAD.

I guess I should mention that Paul is actively lighting fires throughout the Puget Sound area. I guess it's an important plot point, but I didn't feel obligated to bring it up. You already knew Paul was the bad guy, right?

So Paul is lighting fires left and right with the help of a scanner. When the fire departments send out their trucks to stop one of his blazes, Paul figures out the blind spots in fire coverage and burns unprotected buildings to the ground. This includes setting a crucifix on fire and burning down a nursing home (killing three soon to be dead anyways old people in the process).

A woman walking her dog spots Paul driving away and gives the police a sketch. The sketch comes out looking a lot like Doogie Howser. This is helpful since Paul is being played by Neil Patrick Harris. The sketch, along with the police calling the advertising firm regarding Paul's white four door sedan with dealer plates, makes the family suspicious.

Paul is then shown at choir practice. This is perhaps the only awesome scene in the movie. Paul is singing Handel's Hallelujah chorus. During the final "Hallelujah," Paul looks up the heavens and sees a bunch of fire and explosions. Awesome.

The Kellers know something is afoot. They do some amateur sleuthing and come to the conclusion that Paul is most likely the serial arsonist. After a tense meeting, they agree to go to the police.

And here we have the Lifetime Dilemma. We know who the bad guy is. We know the family knows who the bad guy is. We know the police know who the bad guy is. Yet it's only 8:45! I have to sit through another 75 minutes of inevitability!? Ugh.

The next 75 minutes prove that Paul is an idiot. Every time he makes a run for the Oregon border or tries to escape the undercover cops trailing him, he ends up going back home or back to work. You see, the only happiness in his life is from his family. He can't give that up.

So the family gets one last Christmas dinner before the five-ohs go in for the arrest. They have steamed clams.

Paul is arrested and his father tells him to do the right thing and confess. That's exactly what happens. The Keller family hugs outside the police station and the mother hilariously and accidentally elbows the daughter in the head.

Oh, also, the police look through Paul's hospital file and realize he may have suffered neurological damage when he was born. This was kept secret from the Kellers. Just to make it perfectly clear that the Kellers were perfect parents and raising a monster wasn't their fault.

This reveal also features Major Dad crying and, frankly, I am not comfortable with that.


This movie was awful. Just because someone is a serial arsonist does not mean their story is compelling.


Other than that sweet explosion montage set to Handel's "Messiah," this movie didn't feature any yuks. Save for the blooper where the daughter gets hit in the noggin'. I enjoyed that more than I should have.


I have never seen an episode of Doogie Howser. Nor have I ever watched How I Met Your Mother. And I never saw Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. So I'm not all that excited by Neil Patrick Harris in weirdo glasses and with a pencil thin mustache. I only care about Major Dad.

(Does anyone remember the episode where Major Dad was embarrassed that his wife Polly's middle name was "Esther"? Or the episode where one his ungrateful brat step-daughters lost his father's [Colonel Grandpa?] Purple Heart? Classic.)


There is hardly any female presence in this movie. The un-Lifetimeness of this movie was so shocking that I had to double check and make sure this movie wasn't intended for TNT or something like that.

Nope. Original Lifetime movie.

What the Hell, Lifetime? There were like eight cops and none of them were black sergeants who say stuff like "God help us all if you're wrong, Thompson." The mother was fucking useless. The daughter had the slightest bit of intuition, but no more than her father and brother.

What a waste.


I believe this is the worst ranked movie on this site. A well earned distinction.