Movies We Like
Morgan Stewart's Coming Home
Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink’s Duckie, as most of you know him) plays 16-year-old Morgan Stewart, a sweet prankster currently serving time at his 10th prep school who just also happens to be a huge horror fanatic. The opening shot of the movie starts out on a close-up of his vintage theatrical one-sheet poster for Lucio Fulci’s Zombi and then pulls out and pans across his room to reveal a barrage of masks, a mechanic moving severed hand, and a slew of posters ranging from Dawn of the Dead to Tales of Terror to The Exorcist. He ends up meeting the girl of his dreams, Emily, (Viveka Davis) while waiting in line at a mall to get George A. Romero’s autograph. She insists on being called “Em,” “just like in Dial M for Murder, the only film Hitchcock ever did in 3D.” Their first date is to see a late night screening of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Hell, even Em’s parents are cool and give her crap over her choice of a date movie, "when William Castle’s Strait Jacket is playing at the Inner Circle!" (And clearly it’s the better choice.) She convinces Morgan to jump into the shower with her while wearing Halloween masks in a wonderful nod to Psycho, which of course always warms my black and bitter little heart. See? Most romantic movie ever, right? Oh wait; there is a story and a plot here, too!
Morgan’s parents, Tom (Nicholas Pryor) and Nancy (Lynn Redgrave) Stewart, are in politics, his father being a prominent senator in Washington, which is the primary reason they’ve both been absent from his life and why he’s been jumping around from boarding school to boarding school over the majority of his teenage years. When we meet him at the beginning of the movie, he’s plotting his latest prank, a revenge scheme against a fellow student which entails flooding his dorm room with a fire hose which is yet another blatant attempt to get kicked out of school as he had done with so much finesse 9 times previously. But instead, after years of blowing off holidays, his parents finally have a change of heart and decide to bring their son back home to Washington—via helicopter, no less!
Morgan is thrilled at the prospect of reconnecting with his parents considering the many fond family vacation memories he has, but alas, the couple and their sleazy political advisor, Jay (Paul Gleason), have an ulterior motive for bringing Morgan home. Since they’re down in the polls against their current competitor for the senate seat, Velma Daggat, the Stewarts plan to shift the focus of their campaign to advocating the most important issue to most voters: “family values,” hence their slogan “vote for the family.” Despite his disappointment in being technically “used” by his parents, Morgan decides to make the best of the situation and try to make them a fully functional family unit. His aid is his eccentric Russian butler, Ivan (Saveli Kramarov), an aspiring entrepreneur who one day dreams of making it big in real estate, divorcing his current wife (the Stewart’s maid, Proskovia), and marrying a smoking hot stewardess.
Morgan starts by doing as many odd jobs around the house as possible, something he picks up from an episode of The Brady Bunch which does very little to win over his mother’s affections. In fact, his constant cleaning (and mishaps that occur while cleaning) only annoy her further. Things get even worse when his parents trash and throw out all his horror posters and collectibles deeming them “pornographic material” and a completely inappropriate way to decorate a room considering the frequent members of the press that make their way through there. Morgan defends his beloved genre by telling his mother that “horror films are not pornographic,” but realizes that there’s no reaching them. He is in fact (as he says aloud) an “orphan with parents” and just a pawn in their political game.
He gets sidetracked when he randomly meets the lovely Emily at the mall. She pretty much cuts into line with him as he waits to get a copy of George Romero’s book, The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh, and the two of them hit it off and have a wonderful movie geek discussion. Em’s favorite movie is Night of the Living Dead, so she pretty much had me from there. Fearing his strict parents won’t let him take one of their many cars to take Emily on their first date, he “borrows” one from the garage and gets busted by the cops after an anonymous call from Emily’s little brother, Billy. (Every ‘80’s movie needs that annoying 12-year-old little brother character.)
Deeming his erratic (yet typical teenager) behavior too much to control, his parents unwisely try to send Morgan to military school. This is when he breaks out the grand prize of his collection, his “Texas Chainsaw Massacre chainsaw autographed by Tobe Hooper,” and uses it to escape and run away. And while plotting to get away from it all, he goes to empty his safety deposit box at the bank and stumbles upon a huge blackmail scandal set up by his folks’ most trusted confidant, Jay, which is sure to destroy his parents’ political careers and make Jay a very rich man. Morgan’s got one more prank up his sleeve that, with the help of his new girlfriend, just might help him save his family in more ways than one!
While credited to “Alan Smithee,” the actual original director of Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home was Terry Winsor who was later replaced by Paul Aaron. Neither filmmaker took credit for the final movie, which is why it’s got the Smithee credit, although they both should be proud, damn it!
There’s a lot of stuff to have fun with in this movie. It definitely fits into the trademark mold that teenage comedies of this era perfected, yet all the wonderful movie references always put this one above the others of its ilk for me, personally. I always loved this one because Morgan was pretty much an average, normal, fun-spirited kid. He wasn’t dark and brooding and gothic nor was he a strange gutter punk, which is the way most horror fans were portrayed in movies those days. He was just (in my opinion) too cool for school, which is how I and the small group of my other horror-loving friends were at that age, so for that reason alone I will always have a great affinity for this film.
Fun fact: For the scene that takes place at the mall for the Waldenbooks signing of the hardcover book, The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh, it’s actually not legendary director George A. Romero signing or playing himself, but instead an impersonator.