Fourteen-year-old Chris Mills throws a wrench in his parents’ plans to divorce by hiring Archie Corelli, an auto-mechanic by day and a lawyer by night, to sue his parents and ultimately disrupt their plans to end their marriage.
A young Mark-Paul Gosselaar is perfect for the role of Chris Mills in Necessary Parties. Five years before he would gain his most recognizable role as Zack in Saved by the Bell, Gosselaar starred in a 1988 movie as a 14-year-old who hires a dormant attorney-turned-auto mechanic to represent him and his 6-year-old sister to prevent his parents from divorcing.
Chris gets the idea from learning about the Bill of Rights in school, when his teacher tells him that children have lots of rights — “everywhere but in this classroom!”
Alan Arkin plays attorney Archie Corelli, who opts out of practicing law because justice has proven more about winning than truth. But when Chris appeals to Corelli’s inner sense of fair play, Corelli awakens his dormant legal chops to figure a way for a son to have standing in his parents’ divorce case. Corell’s novel idea has no legal precedent, but here it is: Have the court designate Chris a “necessary party” who must be heard in order for the judge to make a fair finding. Because by definition, Chris and his sister are necessary parties — “persons whose interests are affected directly by the outcome of the case.”
Of course, Chris might have fared slightly better with a more expensive lawyer, but who else would take a $10 retainer? Especially for a case they have no chance of winning — even with Gosselaar, whose real-life parents divorced, bringing childlike passion to the role. But you’d be amazed at what childlike passion in the face of certain defeat can affect others.
Arkin, who wrote the screenplay, employs most of his family in it — sons Adam Arkin and Anthony Arkin and wife Barbara Dana, who plays Carol, his girlfriend of 12 long years, before she grabs him by the neck and insists they get married.
Chris’s parents, Stephen and Connie Mills, are played by actors with bona fide comedic chops — Geoff Pierson (Unhappily Ever After) and Julie Hagerty (Airplane!) — but they mostly play it straight and, as is often the case, the kids have the best lines. Especially the 6-year-old Jenny.
The Dove Take:
There are a couple instances of mild language, but it’s a funny movie with an honorable aim — to prevent the dissolution of a marriage.