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Mad Dash

The dark side of life is never shown. Yes, Carla and Daniel both get frustrated, but they deal with it in a far more mature fashion than any flesh-and-blood person would, mentally challenged or not. Only one scene touches on the real hardships Carla faces and how terribly it hurts. Otherwise, everyone she encounters treats her with patience and kindness. Even Elizabeth's embarrassment at having a "less than normal" daughter is never allowed to get too ugly or unflattering. Although Carla, her parents, and two sisters are frequently onscreen together, there is no sense of familiarity or chemistry between any of them. It's not a question of a dysfunctional family; it's that no one seems related to anyone else. Keaton never creates much of a character -- she seems to have stepped off the set of Father of the Bride -- and Tom Skerritt is all smiles and no personality as Carla's dad. A few stern words between Elizabeth and her husband are supposed to reveal some tension, but, like every other conflict in the film, the words and situations never become "uncivilized." In his desire to present an upbeat, even inspirational film, Marshall sweeps the less attractive aspects of reality under the rug.

-- Jean Oppenheimer

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