I don't know what got into the water, but I have been recording a ton of Lifetime movies and even taking the time to watch them. So why not get started with a story of child molestation. Drink every time you hear the phrase "Mommy put her mouth on my penis" in courtroom testimony!
Just Ask My Children is based on the true story of the Kern County sexual assault charges. If I knew this movie was going to be based on a true story, I never would have recorded it. I've known about the false charges levied against parents and day cares in the mid-80s, partially since the Massachusetts case still pops up in the news and even became part of the race to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate. The Democratic candidate, a dolt named Martha Coakley, had pushed hard as a district attorney to keep clearly innocent people in jail since it always looks bad to be soft on child molesters. Even innocent ones.
Here's a Wikipedia rundown of a ton of false charges that led to serious jail time. It's the worst and it truly makes me infuriated. It's why electing judges is such a joke and why electing lawyers is a joke too. Everything about this is a sick joke.
And God help me, Lifetime didn't do such a terrible job here. It even stuck close to the facts. I mean, some of it is laughable. In the first five minutes, the Kniffen parents are presented as truly the greatest people to walk on God's green Earth. We all should avert eye contact with them they're so great. They love God, apple pie, and walks in the park.
If only things were so good for their neighbors, the McCauns. Those imperfect sons-of-bitches have a Rockwell family too, but it's being soiled by a crazy step-grandmother who likes making crazy accusations. (We only get a glimpse of her, but she's obese and has short hair so you know she's bad news.)
Those accusations make it to the "Welfare Office" and to a case worker who, for some reason, buys into them hook, line, and sinker. The accusations include forced oral and anal sex, hanging the boys from ceiling hooks and jerking them off, and, of course, recording all the festivities. This stuff usually happens in secret rooms (a common factor in a lot of these cases).
Without interviewing anybody, the DA and Social Services decide to go in and arrest everybody. The kids get interviewed and they all turn over on their parents. You know, since they're six and ten and don't know to be as honest as possible when adults are sitting in a room and badgering you with crazy questions about being sodomized. Instead of answering true, they are trying to answer right.
So, despite the no physical evidence of any of this occurring, we proceed to trial and the Kniffens are convicted. Why? Because kids don't lie. That is the entirety of the prosecution's closing argument. When I was 10, I lied all the time. Constant falsehoods to get what I want or to impress people. Maybe I'm a bit of sociopath, but most kids lie, right?
The jury doesn't think so and the Kniffens get over 1,000 years of prison. Not an exaggeration.
From there the parents go to jail AND HOW CAN THE MOVIE ONLY BE A THIRD OF THE WAY OVER!?!? I know this is a common Lifetime complaint, but JESUS. It's such a mistake. By keeping the parents in jail you aren't letting the viewer root for the people we've been following for the past 45 minutes. Instead we switch to the kid's perspective as they come to realize exactly what they did. Who gives a shit about that though? It certainly doesn't help that the actors who play the kids as, uh, kids, and the actors who play the kids as teenagers are fucking terrible.
So for over an hour we're getting nothing but the Kniffens writing letters to the people who care about them. The dad writes to his mom that he is in the same facility as Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson. "Remember when you told me to watch the company that I keep? It would be funny except that it's not." I don't know, Mr. Kniffen. That's pretty funny.
Well, his mom dies anyways so whatever.
And Mrs. Kniffen is dealing with the only black character in the entire movie. Of course she's a mean spirited prisoner who keeps spitting and cussing. You know how black prisoners are when compared to their white counterparts. Always with the spitting.
Grandma isn't the only one to die since the Kniffens are stuck in the clink for 12 years. Even when their stupid ass kids recant, they aren't granted a retrial (another common link between these cases). Finally they get out and The End.
Well, the movie is just a teensy racist seeming and that's kind of an issue. And I mentioned the pacing issues. But the movie does a fine job at riling people up about something people should be riled about. These cases and cases like it (think The West Memphis Three) are disgusting and horrible and it's the same kind of stupid hysteria that leads to ignorant assholes protesting a community center in Manhattan.
HEY! IT'S THAT GUY!: 3
True story, I have never seen a movie with Virginia Madsen in it. I know she is supposed to be famous, but whatever. Bonus point for a Buffy alumnus. Principal Snyder from Seasons 2 and 3 is a prison psychiatrist.
Well, that racist stuff and that plotting stuff are all kind of par for the course for Lifetime. But this could have been a MotW on any network. It wasn't very Lifetime specific.
GRAND TOTAL: 21
BEWARE. Not good for ironic viewing. Very depressing!