Paul "Triple H" Levesque - Ray Bradstone
Kevin Corrigan - Phillip Larue
Ariel Winter - Sally Bradstone
Annabeth Gish - Lynne
Yeardley Smith - Miss Miller
Israel Broussard - Josh
Enrico Colantoni - Dr. Etman
Jose Zuniga - Carlos
Kevin Rankin - Goldy
Genre - Action/Family/Drama/Comedy
Running Time - 103 Minutes
A former bank robber, Ray Bradstone (Paul "Triple H" Levesque) is released from prison years after his partners ditched him at the scene of some robbery. Reformed and wanting to start anew, Ray plans to make up time with his ex-wife (Annabeth Gish) and his daughter Sally (Ariel Winter) - both of whom don't want anything to do with him, fearing Ray will only disappoint them at the end again. When approached by his ex-partner in crime, Phillip Laure (Kevin Corrigan) about doing another bank heist, Ray reluctantly agrees to help.
During the actual bank heist, Sally is also on her way to a school trip in New Orleans. Realizing that the heist is a bad idea and would only send him back to prison, Ray ditches the mission and gets rid of the keys of the getaway car that he was supposed to drive. He decides to walk to his daughter's school bus [that happens to be right in front of the bank that's being robbed] and appoints himself the school chaperone of the trip. Laure and his crew realizes that Ray has left them dry and without a car, tossing a bag of bank money onto the school bus where the rest of the luggage is stored. However, the bus leaves with the money, causing Laure and his men to chase it down while thinking of ways to get revenge on Ray - who spends the entire trip bonding with his daughter and protecting her from danger.
- The acting. Nothing about THE CHAPERONE is close to great or exceptional, but it does have its positives that saves it from being a completely terrible film. The first thing is the decent acting the movie contains. Say what you want about Paul "Triple H" Levesque in terms of his professional wrestling career and how he managed to sleep with and marry Vince McMahon's daughter to gain political power within the WWE. But he really isn't a bad actor and impresses here as Ray. He's quite likeable and hits the emotional notes quite well. He also handles the more action filled scenes as well due to his profession. He honestly deserved to act in a much better film than THE CHAPERONE.
The other actors are okay as well. Kevin Corrigan has a pretty generic villain in Larue, but makes the most of the part. Ariel Winter is a child actress that doesn't annoy me and has a spunkiness about her that was a bit endearing. Annabeth Gish and Enrico Colantoni are given nothing to do as Ray's wife and Sally's future stepfather, respectively. But they try their best. Yeardley Smith also isn't terrible as the teacher, Miss Miller. The teen actors were more than fine as well. It sucks that the script was pretty lame because the actors were ready to go here. But when you're not given anything interesting to do, it's hard to really sell the film. Still, the acting was the least of the film's problems and no one was bad at all. I think they all deserved better material here.
- The direction for the most part. Stephen Herek, best known for his directorial works on BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD, and THE MIGHTY DUCKS, doesn't do a terrible job behind the camera. It's just not really the most interesting direction in the world. Still, he keeps the film together as well as possible, as the story seems to suffer with changes in tones and genres every half hour. The film is edited okay and the pacing is pretty quick besides certain scenes that try to be funny, but aren't by a mile. And the picture quality looks really great and professional, as this film seems to have had an actual budget to work with. Herek hasn't done great films as of late, but I don't blame him for dragging THE CHAPERONE down. Sometimes a director wants to compensate for a lazy script in vain, which is what happened here.
- The screenplay. Here is where THE CHAPERONE just fails - badly. Now before I really get into it, I just want to point out that this script is as predictable and cliche as it gets. A lot of people hate that, but in terms of this family vehicle, I'm okay with it. While I'll get into the marketing in a bit, I'm sure the demographic intended for this film are children 12 and under. So I doubt kids will expect surprises and twists and turns that will make the film extremely memorable. Kids just want to have a good time, and the way this screenplay plays out will probably achieve that.
Even so, the narrative forces its way to its predictable conclusion rather than things happening naturally. It's just lazy screenwriting 101 - I think even as a kid, I would have felt this script was dumb as a box of rocks. For example, when Ray helps Larue with the bank heist, his daughter's school bus just HAPPENS to be across the street. Wow, what a coincidence. Another coincidence? Putting the stolen money in the luggage carrier on the side of the bus that just happens to have Ray and his daughter riding on it! Oh my God...what irony! You know what's also ironic? The fact that when Larue gets to New Orleans, he happens to know people who will do his dirty work. And these goons happen to be like a few blocks away from the hotel Ray and his daughter are staying at! Gee, how is this possible? It's possible because it's stupid and things are made too easy for our characters. Don't get me started on the fact that the bag with the stolen money is identical to a student's bag, which causes a mix up of epic proportions! Hilarity ensues, y'all!
And for a film that's trying to be funny, it sure isn't. There's one moment in particular involving a universal remote control that's turning everything on inside Lynne's house as she's talking to Sally on the phone. It went on for like two or three minutes, and my only feelings on that scene were whether I'd miss anything besides several minutes of my time if I fast forwarded it. I guess the predictability and cliches are supposed to make audiences laugh, but it just ends up boring you and making you wish you were watching a better family film. Like KINDERGARTEN COP. Or HOME ALONE. Or CATCH THAT KID. You know...three films this film tries to be all at once and fails at each one?
You think I'm kidding? Ray acts like a cheaper version of Detective Kimble, disciplining the kids with some tough love at first. Then they warm up to him and defend Ray when it's believed he helped with that bank heist. And why would anyone think that? After all, it's not like Ray wasn't wearing gloves while driving the getaway car, his fingerprints weren't on the car keys, and his DNA wasn't all around the crime scene! Genius screenwriting!
As for the HOME ALONE similarities, the final act merges it with CATCH THAT KID, as the teens defeat the villains by setting booby traps for them as they trip and fall all over each other while using modern technology. Like I said, I don't know what genre this film is trying to fit into. Action? Family? Drama? None of them really seem to work for this one.
And then there's this recurring theme of Sun Tzu's The Art of War being referenced throughout the film. Ray says he read it in prison. The kids know what the book is. Apparently they use it to defeat the villains at the end. It just got annoying, as if the film was promoting the book rather than itself. Not to say it isn't a bad book to promote, as The Art of War is great. But once is enough. There's also a theme about dinosaurs, as Ray knows every fact about dinosaurs and happens to fill in for a tour guide that wasn't available during the trip. Things are just too coincidental to identify with, which makes THE CHAPERONE a tough film to sit through, even if it does try to be good.
The characters are no better really. Besides Ray, Sally, Larue, and maybe even Josh [Sally's crush], the others have no depth to them at all. I think the worst character was this really bitchy girl who was Sally's rival for Josh's affections. She was just annoying and her scene with her plump lips gone wrong wasn't funny at all. And she was there the entire final act. Just bad. Maybe younger people will enjoy this script more than I did. But I just thought it was stupid. It doesn't surprise me that the screenplay was written by a first time writer.
- Who is this film marketed for? It's bad enough THE CHAPERONE doesn't know exactly what genre it should be for much of its runtime. But I'm confused about the demographic this film is intended for. It's obviously clear that THE CHAPERONE is made for the younger set [those who probably watch The Hub or the Disney Channel] who'll find most of this stuff funny. But at lot of what goes on in the film is pretty adult as well. We get actual fist fighting, people using guns, and even a bit of bloodshed here. This stuff is not really suitable for kids, in my opinion. So I'm not sure who is supposed to watch this.
It's also marketed as a comedy, but comes across as more of a family drama than anything. It's like the screenwriter wanted to infuse every genre in an 103 film that would appeal to people of all ages. But it doesn't work because things are either to childish for grown ups or too mature for young kids. THE CHAPERONE comes across as disjointed.
THE FINAL HOWL
Not the worst WWE Films movie I've seen, but THE CHAPERONE is one worth skipping unless you really love Triple H. While the acting and direction keeps the film afloat, the screenplay is a mess [even though it is predictable for a good reason and has some chuckle worthy moments] and doesn't accomplish what it sets out to do. I guess children may tolerate this film more than I did, but you could find a much better film with a similar premise. Believe me, they are out there. That being said, I didn't totally hate THE CHAPERONE and it slightly exceeded my very low expectations for it. Still, I wouldn't get on this school bus again, even if the trip to New Orleans was for free.