Used to be it was pets and children: today it's pro sports and children. Lassie's been replaced by one of those small, quick, shooting guards. Mixed Company was prepackaged for a drive-in double bill, the film that puts your 8-year-old to sleep before the sex-and-violence flick comes on. Not that there isn't a lot of skin in Mixed Company. The Phoenix Suns appear in showers and in whirlpools, strictly drip-on parts. There's even a coy jockstrap cut. Children are forever receding into the middle distance with bared buttocks. It's PG for Plenty Gluteals.
At least the kids can talk; the Suns were hired because wallpaper can't go to its left. There are three or four subliminal basketball action scenes, about as much as you'd see at home with a busted horizontal hold. The rest of the time the players stand or sit, looking like deaf-and-dumb marriage counselors while coach, Joe Bologna, and wife, Barbara Harris, Search For Tomorrow. The basketball-speaking role goes to Ron McIlwain, who, as one United Artists press release says, is "formerly a member of the New Orleans Saints and cousin of Suns' star guard, Charlie Scott." (Formerly a cousin? Did he get cut from the family?) In films these days, it's not what you know, it's where you played that counts. The basketball scenes are merely decorative, a come-on for dad.
In the film Joe Bologna has lost his fertility to the mumps, his team couldn't go one-on-one with a bridge table, and Barbara is scouting the local adoption agency for low draft choices. There are predictable Doris Day-Rock Hudson suburban laugh gimmicks, even a soap-suds tidal-wave scene. Two out of seven family comedies have a soap-suds tidal-wave scene. The children are eligible for Medicare: a bunch of wise-cracking ancient dwarfs, adorable and preposterous, black, Indian, Vietnamese, plus Bologna's three premumps naturals. Treacly ethnic jokes proliferate. It's an Archie Bunker show for second-graders.
Yet Mixed Company is technically well made, smooth as an otter. Love prevails, basketball heals. The generation gap is closed on a nifty fast break. Your wife will cry. The kids will pick up some slick one-liners. You might do worse on a Saturday evening. Mixed Company could open in Radio City Music Hall, with four dozen Rockettes dressed as giant bunnies. If the Music Hall is booked, they should jerry-build another one for it.