The Check is in the Mail (1986) – Review

1/2 Star

The Check is in the Mail is an utterly bad film, lacking a single funny line or amusing scene. This is one mess of a movie, to say that the story is incoherent would be kind. In actuality the screenplay, as presented, is not in film-able shape. In fact this movie in its current form isn’t fit for release, which may explain why a film featuring the talents of Brian Dennehy and Anne Archer, skipped theatrical distribution and premiered on VHS under the, (dubiously titled), Media ENT. banner.

Dennehy heads the cast as Richard Jackson, a drug-store pharmacist in debut to the mob for $8,000 and up to his eyes in bills. Until one day Jackson becomes so fed-up with chasing the ideal version of suburban middle class life that he pulls the plug on all forms of modernism. Richard begins restoring to farm-era techniques to buck the ‘system’, while constantly trying to keep his befuddled family from leaving him. This entire turn of events is the central drama of the film, yet none of this occurs until nearly an hour into this excruciating experience. Up to that point we are treated to awkwardly staged scenes that do not end so much as just stop mid-point and jump into a different, equally confusing and unpleasant scene. Then as if the timekeeper blows the whistle at the 80 minute mark, Dennehy’s character does a complete about-face and goes back on all his grandstanding.

The atrociously plotted script doesn’t even bother giving Jackson a motivation for his moral reversal, which effectively renders the entire film pointless. You get the sense that the filmmakers were going for something in the vain of the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s or the irreverence of John Candy’s Summer Rental. Those are fine films, yet neither was mixed with over-wrought satire that feels like after-thoughts from script sessions on Network. Dennehy is good in his role, he makes for a believable Everyman that has had it with the corporations. His natural delivery and aura of disenchantment are perfectly suited for the role, and he handles the light comedy adequately. Too bad he is lost in a sea of half-developed ideas and sitcom level scenarios. The Check is in the Mail is a particularly painful experience, and one 1986s worst films.

Director: Joan Darling
Stars: Brian Dennehy, Anne Archer, Michael Bowen

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