Back in 1993, during a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the auteur theory in America, critic-turned-filmmaker Paul Schrader identified a then-current Hollywood trend: “If you learned your craft in episodic television, you learned two things. One: how to take orders and be on time. And two: how to please people. So now who are our ‘auteurs’? Meathead, Laverne and Opie.” Which was to say, Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall and Ron Howard, respective acting alumni of All in the Family, Laverne & Shirley, and The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
Laverne and Meathead soon ceased to matter much, but Opie gives no sign of slowing down, and he continues to direct movies as if he were following the season bible for some TV series and determined that every second of airtime keep people pleased. An Opie opus is dependably formulaic on every front and, from shot to shot, cut to cut, numbingly predictable. Yet that’s coherence of a sort, and a way of compensating for the lack of an applause sign to cue the audience.
It’s exasperating that Ron Howard is almost certainly a nice man. Seeing him on TV to promote his latest picture, you realize he’s exactly who Opie Taylor and/or Richie Cunningham would have grown up to be. He’s been married to the same woman forever, he reserves roles in just about every movie for actor dad Rance and actor brother Clint, and he’s even named his kids after the town — and, in one case, a certain country road — where each was conceived. Family values. You can’t knock ’em.