Stranger in the Family (1991) starring Teri Garr, Neil Patrick Harris, Randle Mell, Sierra Samuel, Cully Fredricksen, Mag Ruffman directed by Donald Wrye Movie Review

Stranger in the Family (1991)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Teri Garr in Stranger in the Family (1991)


When Steve Thompson (Neil Patrick Harris - Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) is injured in a car accident the doctor at the ER thinks his silence is just a concussion from a bump on his head and tells his parents Randi (Teri Garr - Tootsie) and Alan (Randle Mell) to take him home. But next morning they are convinced things are not right and after returning to hospital and various tests a brain specialist suggest that Steve is suffering from temporary amnesia and will most likely regain his memory in a few weeks. But his memory doesn't return and the family have to deal with teaching Steve all over again whilst also battling the system in order to try and give Steve an education.

I am admittedly a fan of TV movies especially those which are based on true stories but some true stories translate better than others and unfortunately "Stranger in the Family" is one of those movies which struggle. Now there is no doubt it is an interesting and moving movie as we get to watch the struggles of the Thompson family but it is a movie which doesn't draw you in, it leaves you as the observer rather than part of the drama. It makes it feel like a movie made for those who were part of the story rather than for the masses.

Neil Patrick Harris and Sierra Samuel in Stranger in the Family (1991)

Having said that "Stranger in the Family" is still an interesting movie with an interesting look at the struggles of the Thompson family with each member having their problems. As such we have Steve's mother who not only finds it hard to deal with her teen son not being how her teen son was but also the education system as she hopes he will be able to catch up. Then there is Steve's sister Shari who despite doing her best to help often struggles with being blamed if Steve has a bout of anger and equally struggles with the name calling at school. All of which, and there is more, is interesting and we see some interesting scenes from the forgotten dangers of home when Steve wanders out and falls into the pool to an early scene of Shari having to dress her older brother.

Then there is Steve himself and Neil Patrick Harris sporting one heck of a mullet. Harris delivers a truly impressive performance as a teen who due to amnesia has the mental ability of a small child. I say impressive because it would be so easy to over act the part but he never does, playing Steve with a real innocence and in truth is the only character who is easy to connect with.

What this all boils down to is that "Stranger in the Family" is an interesting and moving movie but one which struggles to connect with the audience, leaving them as an observer rather than part of the story.