Friday, March 19, 2021

“V.C. Andrews’” Ruby

How much is a name worth? In the case of gothic children-in-jeopardy novelist V.C. Andrews, the I.R.S. determined her name was worth $1.2 million. That came as quite a surprise to her estate, but they got their tax liabilities’ worth by releasing dozens of subsequent ghost-written novels under her million-dollar moniker. The Landry novels were amongst them. They were totally the work of Andrew Neiderman (previously known as the author of The Devil’s Advocate), whereas Andrews’ involvement was literally in name only. Fans never seemed to mind, so Lifetime has continued their Andrews program with Ruby, the first of four Landry TV movies, which premieres tomorrow on the network.

Within the first twelve minutes of
Ruby, the sensitive title character learns Paul Tate, her high school love, is actually her secret brother and she has a well-heeled twin sister in New Orleans, who was whisked away by their tomcatting father to placate his barren and snobby wife. So yes, Ruby is totally on-brand. After the death of her beloved Grandmere, Landry’s drunken Grandpere tries to sell her chastity to an old bayou perv, so she runs off to NOLA to find the father she never knew.

Guilt-ridden Pierre Dumas is thrilled to welcome her into the family, but Ruby’s new twin sister Giselle and “mother” Daphne are somewhat less than overjoyed. Frankly, they are both real pills. Nevertheless, Ruby Dumas will do her best to navigate her new life of family secrets, crazy relatives, and voodoo.

Ruby is only getting started with the Landry/Dumas saga, but we have already seen enough. The melodrama is cheesy and the performances verge on self-parody. Honestly, it is hard to imagine sitting through more. Maybe, we’ll try the final film too, Hidden Jewel, to cover the quartet high school style—just the beginning and the end—but no promises.

As Ruby and Giselle Dumas, Raechelle and Karina Banno create two distinctly different personas and yes they are indeed identical twins. However, veteran TV director Gail Harvey has them go way-the-heck-and-gone over-the-top. In contrast, as sad papa Pierre, Gil Bellows walks around like he is zonked out on Nyquil and Valium. At least Lauralee Bell helps makes things watchable with her regal attitude and energetic scheming, as dear mother Dumas.

Weirdly, not a heck of a lot really happens in
Ruby after the early barrage of revelations, but screenwriters Richard Blaney and Gregory Small manage to build towards an empowering climax. Regardless, we would way prefer to watch a rerun of Dark Shadows—just about anyone would. Maybe good for a few awkward laughs, but definitely not recommended, Ruby premieres tomorrow (3/20) on Lifetime, with the next three movies airing the next evening (3/21) and the following Saturday (3/27) and Sunday (3/28).