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TABLE FOR FIVE

    

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kino Lorber has revived this soapy melodrama for a Blu-ray upgrade, which is reason enough to dig into the archives for my review of the film, which was published in the Deseret News on March 11, 1983.

“Table For Five” has the makings of a terrific story, with the hero of the piece, J.P. Tannen (Jon Voight), coming back into the lives of his three children after being a long-distance father for several years.

The first half of the film sets it up very well, with an equal balance of humor and pathos, as Tannen vows to become a reformed father and abruptly announces he is taking the kids to Egypt on a cruise. During the cruise, however, it becomes apparent he’s more interested in “The Love Boat” than “The Waltons.”

The children are all very real, not Hollywood brats, and it’s easy to care about the relationship that develops as they form an uneasy alliance. But then screenwriter David Seltzer (“Six Weeks”) throws in a cheap shot, a tragedy that merely becomes a device to force Tannen into growing up and becoming a responsible father.

How much better this film would have been if the device had been abandoned and the growing up was a natural byproduct of Tannen’s being alone with his kids for the first time.

    

         Richard Crenna, Jon Voight, 'Table for Five'

But the second half just wallows in schmaltz, replacing humor and growth with sappy sentiment.

Another problem here is that the children’s stepfather, played by Richard Crenna, is so capable, loving and sincere, he’s much more likable than the immature, impatient Voight, a dreamer who seems as irresponsible as they come. Given a choice, any court in the land would easily see Crenna as the better father figure of the two. For that matter, the kids probably would, too.

The technical aspects are all commendable, particularly Vilmos Zsigmond’s gorgeous photography, and in his theatrical directing debut, Robert Lieberman does as well as he can with Seltzer’s script. The acting here is also very good, with a rare appearance by the charming Millie Perkins as Voight’s ex-wife; French actress Marie Christine Barrault (“Cousin, Cousine”) is delightful as a woman Voight meets on the ship; and all three of the children are fine, especially the older daughter, played by young Roxana Zal.

    

Crenna is solid as Perkins’ husband, who has been more of a father to the children than their own father, and Voight is also good, giving us a good look at both sides of his character.

This is a film that should be touching and likable, but because that second half gets away from it, the whole movie seems to drift out to sea.

Rated PG for profanity, “Table For Five” may please some audiences looking for easy, pleasant family fare – but it could have been so much more.