I imagine that some hapless assistant somewhere scissored their knuckles to the bone to make the poster for “Too Much Sun”: I picture this designer cutting up 3-7 individual photographs featuring the film’s lead characters, angling to avoid unintentionally removing an entire haircut or a limb, and then glue-sticking these paper dolls atop each other with the precision of a toddler stuffing a fistful of crayons into a backseat cupholder and then finally shoving the whole human bouquet into an adorable classic car driven by Robert Downey Junior in a manner that radiated fun, humor, and a sunny day in Los Angeles. The title “TOO MUCH SUN” glows in highlighter yellow, underscored with gentle magenta waves. There are palm trees and other trees and a log-line promising me, an innocent human being, “a comedy about sex, money, and what some people will do for a lot of both.”
I was intrigued, mostly because this film was made in 1990 and had lesbians in it and one of the lesbians is named Susan. I was certain I’d stumbled upon a bona fide hidden gem. $2.99 was a small price to pay to uncover this elusive cinematic experience and then share it with all of you here. How delighted we’d all be together!
Well, my friends: this film is not a hidden gem, it is a shame, and therefore hidden on purpose. It’s not simply terrible, it is a stain upon humanity. It is a farce without whimsy, an aggressively unfunny comedy and an allegedly LGBT-inclusive film riddled with really fucked up jokes! Its badness is not benign, its badness is inescapable, like a rotting tuna sandwich in a parked car on a hot day. A day, perhaps, with too much sun.
That said, its badness is also … unique? I mean, HOW DID THIS GET MADE?!!! I don’t even know how to contextualize it? But I do know that I am unable to bear this burden alone!!! I must share it with you, because I am a journalist and when I see something I have to say something. Listen this is bananas. Shall we?
“Too Much Sun” opens in foggy Los Angeles, California, on a morning when four homosexuals — siblings Sonny (Eric Idle) and Bitzy Rivers (Andrea Martin) and their respective partners, Susan (Laura Ernst) and George (Leo Rossi) — are wearing robes and sending their poodles off to Camp Poodle-Loo Malibu for reasons unbeknownst to me, a person who has seen not only this scene but the entire film. We will never see these poodles again. They got out, and I love that for them, because I did not.
Elsewhere in the city, Sonny and Bitsy’s father, O.M. (Howard Duff), gets a big surprise at confession: instead of accepting his sins, Father Kelly (Jim Haynie) claims to have sins of his own to confess. These sins are actually just an envelope of glossy black and white photos of Bitsy canoodling with her fiancée Susan. O.M. is like, “yeah that’s my daughter Bitsy canoodling with her fiancee Susan.”
Father Kelly, undaunted by O.M.’s acceptance of his daughter’s lesbianism, demands and receives a check for $50k from O.M. so God can forgive O.M. for raising a homosexual. Father Kelly doesn’t stop there — he wants O.M. to think a little harder about Sonny’s sexuality, because he’s still a bachelor at the age of 37!
“Sonny loves women,” Daddy insists. “He is as masculine a son as I could’ve hoped for.” Father Kelly suggests Daddy send Sonny to him to be cured of his gay affliction. Furthermore:
Meanwhile at the Homosexual Siblings Chateau, Sonny & George and Susan & Bitsy are gathered around a backyard pool, dancing to smooth jazz? As you do.
I filmed this dancing scene on my phone and have returned to it several times since, enchanted by its sheer audacity. Simply: how dare it! But dare it; it does. This scene is worth $2.99 tbh.
O.M. busts up this dance party to yell homophobia at everybody. Sonny insists he’s straight and then Vincent (Allan Arbus), the chauffeur, declares, “He’s lying sir. He pulled my pants down in the pantry when he was 17.” This was probably the moment at which I should’ve turned off the TV and washed a spatula instead. BUT I DID NOT.
Obviously O.M has no choice at this juncture but to literally have a heart attack. He survives only to be set up in a lawn chair in his backyard under a tent, like a booth at the art fair.
Father Kelly convinces O.M. to sign a new will he’s written himself. The old will delivers one-third of his billion-dollar estate to Sonny, one-third to Bitzy, and one-third to Fuzby the gardener (John Korkes) “because he’s serious about the environment.”
The new will only gives the kiddos their piece of the pie if they HAVE TRADITIONAL HETEROSEXUAL INTERCOURSE and PRODUCE A “LEGITIMATE GRANDCHILD” within 12 months of OM’s death!?! If they fail to do so, the money will go to Father Kelly instead. Then Father Kelly kills O.M. by stepping on his oxygen tube or something. Womp-womp!
Luckily everybody is serving looks this day — Susan’s checkered blazer! Sonny’s collegiate teal v-neck with a salmon trim that matches the tennis club sweater tied around George’s shoulders! The autumn palette! You love to see it!Now, we get to the central conceit of the film: how will Sonny and Bitsy get their money while remaining gay? This is a problem we face here every day at Autostraddle. Sonny starts this process the same way I do:
Bitsy’s plan is to re-connect with Frank De La Rocca Junior, a child she gave up for adoption 22 years ago. She doesn’t know where he’s at or what he’s up to: but we (the viewer) do because we’re taken straight to his home and office in Tuxedo Park. The specifics of Frank Jr’s life arrangement are foggy but he seems to have domain over two trailers, which he shares with his aspiring actor friend Reed Richmond and his business, a real estate agency that peddles its wares by cold-calling people from the phone book and offering them acreage in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
This is Frank Jr (Ralph Macchio):
This is Reed Richmond (Robert Downey Jr):
O.M.’s family, Father Kelly, and the Three Nuns take a Booze Cruise to pay tribute to O,M. Bitzy is losing it fast. She throws O.M.’s ashes AND THE URN over the side of the boat, immediately regrets it, and then leaps right into the water to find the Urn.
Attempting to give herself to the sea somehow lands Bitsy in the psych ward, where she yells at Father Kelly about how his mother sucks big cocks. I am not making this up, she leaps out of the bed and screams YOUR MOTHER SUCKS BIG FAT COCKS! at Father Kelly. Misandry!
Sonny’s idea to secure his fortune, much to George’s chagrin, is to have traditional heterosexual intercourse with a woman, which I guess he thinks will immediately result in a successful pregnancy. His first idea for a Mommy is Susan, whomst he intends to impregnate while Bitzy’s out of commission.
Susan dresses up as a Newsie and sticks a roll of quarters in her underpants. Sonny reaches deep into the discount bin at Strawberry for some women’s lingerie.
Sonny and Susan try to have sex:
Eventually they give up.
Meanwhile, Father Kelly is in his chambers, telling his three nuns how he’s gonna become a Cardinal in Rome once he gets this $200 million from O.M.. Then he gives his nuns some tasks.
First up is Sister Agnes (Heidi Swedberg), who is asked to put on “our little blue dress” and ride her bicycle to Tuxedo Park to scope out Frank Jr. Frank is at home preparing himself for his date with Gracia, a woman he ordered from an infomercial for EASY ESCORTS.
When Sister Agnes arrives, Frank Jr thinks she’s Gracia, what a zany mix-up! But then Gracia (Jennifer Rubin) arrives and Frank Jr passes off Sister Agnes to Reed, who attempts to sell her land in Belarus. Meanwhile, Frank Jr attempts to secure a date with Gracia despite not having enough money to pay her.
Sister Ursula has adopted the role of Nurse Neely, Bitsy’s new “home aide.” Vincent, the chauffeur, quits his job because he’s no longer satisfied by driving people around who he says are “going nowhere,” but Nurse Neely is happy to take the wheel. He hops back into the hospital. Bon voyage, Vincent!
As they return home to the Homosexual Siblings Chateau, Bitsy shouts BITSY’S HOME!! 25 times repeatedly while Fuzby trims a tree.
The family re-gathers in the backyard. Bitsy dons a classic early ’90s lesbian look: one vest, one statement scarf, pleated pants and a lot of attitude:
She introduces Nurse Neely to her family:
My favorite running bit of this film is the Daddy Discourse between Bitsy and Susan:
Meanwhile, Father Kelly’s standing on a patch of dirt staring at the ocean when Sister Agnes arrives on her bicycle and rides in circles while he chants “RIDE SISTER RIDE!!”
He takes her in his arms as Agnes delivers the bad news: Frank Della Roca Jr exists.
Father Kelly and Sister Esther thus zoom over to Tuxedo Park, where Reed is holding dry pasta over a hot oven while delivering a monologue in a British accent.
And Frank Jr is still trying to get a free date with Gracia, because he is a terrible person:
Father Kelly and Sister Agnes are gonna convince Frank Jr that they wanna buy 900 acres in the Soviet Union and then somehow steal blood from his body for a DNA test???
When Bitsy, Susan, Nurse Neely and Fuzby pull up outside, Father Kelly tells Frank Jr and Reed to hide because the Real Estate Commission has arrived to shutter their operation. While Frank Jr hides under the bed, Sister Agnes stabs him with a needle to take his blood, which makes Frank Jr think he’s on drugs, and thus he begs Father Kelly to take him to rehab. Then Gracia arrives in a mini-dress to get the $250 that Frank Jr still owes her, but Frank Jr is gone now so she has to deal with Reed instead.
While Bitsy investigates the situation with Reed, Sonny continues pursuing his dream of being a Daddy:
Bitsy has become convinced that Reed is Frank Jr. She wants to take him home to the Homosexual Siblings Chateau and also hires him as their new chauffeur. George is furious to see Bitsy embracing Reed.
George: You got suckered by a two-bit hustler!!
Reed: I didn’t sucker anyone, all right, you fagatini!
‘It’s time for you to go home and be with me and Susan for the rest of your lives,” says Bitsy, in the words of so many lesbian moms to so many of their petulant offspring since time immemorial. So they all drive home to the Homosexual Siblings Chateau.
Reed before he saw the pool:
Reed after seeing the pool:
Meanwhile Sonny’s trying to bang a woman in the backseat of a car on the beach while George watches from the front seat.“Take me, gringo man, I’m ready,” she says.
“I want you to have my baby,” Sonny replies.
“Excuse me?” I ask.
Father Kelly hits Frank Jr over the head with a golf club and ties him to a chair. A Blood Test Delivery Boy — you’re familiar, I’m sure — arrives with the results of the blood test: negative! Father Kelly drags Frank Jr and his chair to the courtyard to die.
Back at the Homosexual Siblings Chateau, Reed’s casually dry humping the bed when Bitsy arrives to tuck him in. Susan spies on them through a large, very obvious window. Reed shares a normal, appropriate thought:
Bitsy says if Reed/Frank forgives her for giving him up 22 years ago, she’ll be the best Mom of all time! In true lesbian fashion, she begins her journey into motherhood by whipping out a guitar for an improv lullaby. Then, as she sings “you’ve found your mummy and she’s found her son,” Reed REACHES UNDER THE COVERS TO START JERKING HIMSELF OFF, at which point my dog Carol learned how to talk and asked me if I wanted to go play on the train tracks with her.
After this scene mercifully concludes, Bitsy leaves Reed to hopefully die in his sleep and finds Susan just outside, where Susan yells IS THAT YOUR NEW SON OR YOUR NEW HUSBAND? Then Bitsy and Susan punch each other in the face and then wrestle until Bitsy calls Susan a bitch and throws her into the pool. Then she remembers that Susan can’t swim so she rescues her from the pool.
Back on the mean streets of Los Angeles, Frank and his chair are searching for a new home.
In the brilliant sunshine of an unforgiving day, George and Sonny have woken up and chosen Folsom Street Fair.
They’ve got a big day ahead of them: Sonny’s lust for fetus has yet to abate and he’s hoping to nail a virgin on a boat with the help of his new nephew/chauffeur, Reed-Pretending-To-Be-Frank, who is gonna hook Sonny up with his sister. Bitsy tells the fam to return by 5:30, at which time she’ll be marrying Frank’s father, Frank Sr. She has found his phone number and plans to lock it down in a manner of hours and then get married in her backyard during rush hour.
Frank Jr is still in his chair.
We return to Mr. Leather’s Wild Ride where plans for the virgin sacrifice are continuing apace. If you were worried, as I was, that we were approaching yet another sexual scenario involving relatives, worry not! Reed is not in fact hooking Sonny up with his sister, but with our favorite Easy Escort, Gracia, who’s cruising town with the mailman but is happy to be dropped off at the dock for this incredible opportunity.
Sonny: “George would it bother you if I said I’m gonna fuck this man’s sister out on the boat?”
George: “You never take me out on the boat.”
Back at Priest Daddy’s, Father’s getting a shoulder massage in the garden and yelling about how rich he’s gonna be. Nurse Nelly crashes the celebration with bad news: Bitsy’s gonna marry Frank Sr!
Back at the pier, the paramaters of Sonny’s deal with Gracia are established: 1. her alleged BROTHER, Reed, will be invited to WATCH THEM BONE, 2. Sonny is very gentle and respectful. Gracia has one more request: she’d like Sonny to take an AIDS test. Luckily this is unnecessary because everybody on the dock is a card-carrying member of the AIDS FREE Club? Y’all this movie was made in 1990? Truly never been a worse time for an AIDS joke?
Sonny, Gracia and Reed board the boat, leaving George to stand on the dock all alone as the boat sails to a resting spot about 20 feet away from the dock. Poor George!
Frank remains tied to his chair, but has made it all the way to the wild plains upon which wild beasts likely once roamed.
Sonny tells Gracia he’ll give her two million dollars if she gets pregnant with his seed, which she finds thrilling, immediately stripping and hopping onto the boat-bed, which’s when Sonny realizes she’s not Reed’s virgin sister after all! But who cares, the sexual activity will commence regardless!
We return to the Homosexual Siblings Chateau, where Bitsy’s wearing a wedding dress and bossing around a bunch of hot lesbians in suits she has hired to play music at her wedding.
Meanwhile, Frank Jr is making excellent progress with his chair:
Back on the love boat, Sonny has yet to orgasm, which is how babies are made, so Gracia continues to ride his pony with the grit and determination of an excellent sex worker. George, who is now barefoot for some reason, is joined on the dock by Frank and his chair, who he immediately propositions for sex.
George reveals that his ex, Sonny, is on a boat having sex with Reed’s sister, Gracia. Frank Jr reveals that Gracia is not Reed’s sister, she’s actually Frank Jr’s fiancee (in his imagination), but also Gracia is an Easy Escort. “The future mother of my children is a straight up slut,” Frank Jr ACTUALLY SAYS, and before I can shove his face underwater like Paige did to Emily at the Rosewood pool, George takes off his jacket and leaps into the water to swim out to the boat to warn Sonny regarding Gracia’s real identity!!!!
Sonny finally concludes that he is not capable of having heterosexual sex and George somehow clamors up to the peephole to witness this moment of defeat:
Father Kelly pulls up to Frank Sr’s home, where Frank Sr is sitting on the lawn smoking a cigarette in a lounge chair. Father Kelly tells Frank Sr he’s got a blood test proving Bitsy isn’t Frank Jr’s Mom and then offers him $50 to not wed Bitsy. Frank Sr consents and gets in the car!
The boat rows 20 feet back to shore, where Frank Jr and his chair scream at Reed.
Back at the Homosexual Siblings Chateau, Sonny tells Susan he failed at heterosexual sex again.
Father Kelly, Sister Agnes and Frank Sr are driving to the wedding?
Susan gives Sonny a cassette tape that was special-delivered for him earlier that morning, and he pops it right into his walkman and then loses his mind listening to it.
Back in the backyard, Bitsy’s attempting to chat it up with Frank Sr, who might not be Frank Sr after all ’cause he’s got no memory of their sexual encounter, which apparently happened in the garage at her Sweet 16 Slumber Party. Frank Sr. eats a cracker. I’m not sure what’s going on here tbh.
Frank Jr remains a menace to the suburbs in his chair.
The Mobile Blood Test Unit Bicycle Squad rolls up?? to Father Kelly’s car??? with a new, improved set of blood test results???? Frank Jr actually is Bitsy’s son after all LOL! Father Kelly immediately destroys the new blood test results so he can deliver the incorrect ones to Bitsy in hopes of ruining the wedding and securing his reward.
Bitsy introduces Reed to Frank Sr as his father. Father Kelly reveals the Negative Blood Test but nobody cares. Frank Jr and his chair arrive at the wedding.
Then we reach the big climax of this unfortunate act of cinematic assault: Sonny, George and Susan emerge from the chateau in wedding attire and honestly how can Bitsy marry Frank Sr when Susan is such a vision in white?????
It turns out that the cassette tape special-delivered in the mail to Sonny is of course a confession, taped by Father Kelly 25 years ago, that Father Kelly had sent to his publisher for inclusion in his upcoming book!!!! Which was then sent to Sonny because Sonny, who said he didn’t have a job one hour ago, works for the publisher? ANYHOW LOL CLASSIC FATHER KELLY.
They play the tape on a loudspeaker. In the tape, a young woman named Consuela Reed Richmond confesses that she had sex with Sonny Rivers and then had his baby: Reed Richmond. So Sonny indeed has a child, and it’s Reed, who is luckily already present, because he’s pretending to be Frank Jr! But Frank Jr is there too and Frank Jr is Bitsy’s son! So all the gays get to keep their money! A twist I did not see coming!
Gracia arrives in search of the money she is still owed. Sonny writes her a check for two million dollars? Then Gracia sees Father Kelly, immediately recognizes him and yells “Big Tom Tom! Kiss me, I’m Irish!” and so he drops dead.
It turns out that God is a pilot for Continental Airlines and he kills Father Kelly by sticking a pen into a doll.
Then everybody dances and has a nice time:
Fuzby the gardener gets the last word:
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, HOMOS: SAVE THE TREES!!!!!
This review, and all included images, are a gift! Thank you for sitting through this for us, the mind truly boggles to imagine this exists.
you are so welcome i wanted us all to feel boggled together as a family
And more importantly
Lots of Whomst’ses who should’ve known better
All these lovingly captioned screengrabs, and I’m still not convinced this is an actual movie. Did the clocks go back to April 1? What is with the Blood Test Squad? How do you stretch out a chair bit that long? When is the HBO Max remake coming? So many questions.
he really committed to that chair!!
What in the name of lesbian Jesus is this horrific fever dream of a movie?? Who thought of the premise?? How did so many people think this was a remotely acceptable idea? Was someone blackmailed with death threats to make this movie?
it’s just wild that the actors showed up day after day to make this fever dream a reality
Hope you recover from your ordeal soon, Riese x
Eric Idle’s IMDB page is truly a cursed place, particularly in the 90s.
for a comedy legend he sure did say yes to a lot of very bad jobs
I lost track of the number of times I asked my computer “what? wait WHAT??” out loud
and alas our questions were never answered!!
i googled and i wish i hadnt!! the trivia makes it even worse!!! this is directed by robert downey sr. which means that lullaby scene was directed by RDJ’s father???
also gracia is played by laura ernst who married robert downey sr the next year, making her robert downey jr’s future stepmother.
AND SHE CO-WROTE THE SCREENPLAY
Riese what have you done
I cannot even
but in my head this is now, canonically, Iron Man’s backstory.
i mean it certainly makes just as much sense for a superhero origin story as it does for anything else that a story could ever be, if you think about it
Riese, I have to say, you MUST keep watching horrible movies— your reviews thereof are as wonderful as the movies are awful! I like to say that the redeeming aspect of unspeakably bad pop songs is that they spawn great Weird Al parodies. A companion rule to that one is, the redeeming aspect of unspeakably bad movies is, they spawn great Riese reviews!
Julie Dash, Dee Rees, Tanya Saracho, Alice Wu, Bretten Hannam, and up and coming directors they each choose should EACH get $1 million dollars for every single movie like this that exists! imagine the movies we could have!