dutch – the dragnet prequel

Dutch was released on July 19, 1991. It’s a comedy drama written by John Hughes, directed by Peter Faiman, score by Alan Silvestri and stars; Ethan Embry, Ed O’Neill and JoBeth Williams.
It’s about Dutch bringing his girlfriend’s son home for Thanksgiving, then whacky-ness ensues…

For this set we’ll be looking to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Before I get carried away with the details, go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film.

We open our film with Dutch (O’Neill) at a party with his girlfriend Natalie (Williams), they both don’t belong among the uppity class types, Dutch is then introduced to his girlfriend’s ex-husband Reed, played by Shooter McGavin – Christopher McDonald. He tells them that he’ll break this Thanksgiving plans for their son, Doyle (Embry) for an unexpected business trip to London.

She relents and calls Doyle at the private school in Georgia to invite him home for Thanksgiving. Doyle answers the phone in the same upper crusty – jerky way that the people at the party might’ve answered, guess he got all his snootiness from his father’s side. Doyle pretty much denies the offer to come home for Thanksgiving. Dutch sees this as a way to get to know Doyle and further prove he cares for Natalie, Doyle’s mom. He offers to go to Georgia and bring Doyle to Chicago. This sets Dutch in motion for the rest of the film.

Dutch and Doyle meet in the dorm room, Doyle is ever so welcoming with a book to the face and shooting Dutch in the groin with a BB gun. After composing himself, Dutch hogties Doyle to a hockey stick and carries him out to the car and off they go. On their way to Chicago they encounter several roadblocks; a fireworks show that goes awry, Dutch’s car being totaled by a semi, getting their stuff stolen by hitching a ride with two prostitutes…

Down and out Doyle ends up calling his father and discovers that he lied about going to London, this sets him back a peg, not only learning that this father betrayed his trust, Dutch accuses Doyle of hating his mom, Doyle now contemplates his life. They bond over this for moment and decide not to call Natalie to bail them out of their predicament, instead they do what men do… keep on keeping on, without asking for directions or help, they’re going to get to Chicago by their own means. This brings them to sneaking a ride on the back of a semi, when the semi gets to its destination they’re assaulted by the security guards, Doyle fakes crazy and pulls out his BB gun, saying he hears voices telling him to kill. This frightens the stupidly violent guards enough for Dutch and Doyle to escape, but not after they received quite the beating.

They then enter a restaurant where they’re asked to leave, but a married couple takes pity on them and brings them to a homeless shelter, they’re in Hammond, Indiana now. At the shelter they get a warm meal, Doyle befriends a little girl with a family. While getting to know them Doyle realizes that he has neglected his mother, and realizes that he does want to be with his mom for the holidays. In the morning they get a lift from this family and arrive at Natalie’s home. But Reed is waiting and he tells Doyle to choose between himself and his mother, Doyle chooses his mother, this enrages Reed and he gives Natalie one day to vacate the house. Dutch talks Reed in to giving her 6 months by putting a dent in Reed’s forehead with his pinky ring.

The film ends with Natalie, Dutch and Doyle at a dinner table as they are about to enjoy their Thanksgiving feast. Dutch then pulls out the BB gun and threatens to shoot Doyle, they share a laugh like it’s not going to happen, that it’s only a veiled threat, but Dutch shoots, roll credits.

The good; this is a John Hughes movie through and through. The inciting incident that sets Dutch on his journey sounds simple enough, yet he’s given roadblock after roadblock, we’re all right there with him. The gags get escalated for comic effect, yet we’re still grounded by Dutch’s desire to connect to Doyle and to get home.

Doyle… now Doyle… what starts off as this outright jerk of a kid matures in to a human being. How does Hughes manage to do that? He did it to perfection with John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and he does it here again! When we first meet Doyle he’s so unlikeable, then we learn that he’s human, and he just wants to be home for the holidays with his mom.

We also get a young EG Daily playing one of the prostitutes. You may better know her as Dottie from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Tommy Pickles from Rugrats.

The bad; Dutch doesn’t get enough love, meaning, when I think of John Hughes’ body of work I hardly think of this movie. Even when I was at the hell hole that is 20th century fox, I don’t think I ever distributed this movie. For shame….. fox, for shame.

Overall, I enjoyed revisiting Dutch. I remembered when it came out, didn’t see it in the theatre, but caught it on one of those free HBO preview weeks. The first act just sticks in my brain, Dutch getting the snot Doyle and hogtying him up, then the rest of the movie gets fuzzy for me.

With this secondary viewing I’d pair it up with a Tree Top Apple Juice, canned version preferred.


Tree Top was founded by Bill Charbonneau, who bought an apple processing plant in Selah, Washington. In the 50s he developed a brand of apple juice, a contest held among the employees led to choosing the name “Tree Top” due to the perception that at the tops of the trees is where the quality fruit grows.
Tree Top apple juice takes me back to 1991, my mom would buy these in the canned form, and Doyle has a can during his meal at the shelter. The apple juice will remind you of Thanksgiving and how it was being a kid, something Doyle clearly never got to experience.
While on the trip down memory lane, why not go all the way right?

Years later O’Neill and Embry would reunite in the 2003 version of Dragnet, I remember watching it then and thinking back to the days of Dutch, my how far they’ve come since then.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever and whomever you spend it with.

Fade out-


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