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While the world wrestles with rewriting the definition of the word family, movies like The Next Best Thing try to elicit sympathy for multiple-partner-gender families, but instead ironically illustrate the very reason these relationships too often end in despair.
Abbie (Madonna) and Robert (Rupert Everett) are best buds who rely on each other to get them through what seems to be an endless series of tough periods in their lives (perhaps the direct result of many unwise decisions). Robert is a homosexual, and is grieving over the recent death of a friend (it's highly intimated that he was a victim of AIDS). Abbie is suffering from mid-life worries after a recent breakup with her boyfriend, and the realization that she may never have a family.
In the best example of misery loves company, these two create even more misery when their mutual grief turns into a drunken decision to have sex. A few weeks later Abbie happily announces that she's pregnant and Robert cheerfully accepts his new responsibilities as a co-habitant parent while continuing to pursue a homosexual lifestyle.
As their little Sam (Malcolm Stumpf) grows up in this "family", he is subjected to many traumatic moments from both his homosexual and heterosexual parents. Dad goes out on dates with men, mom brings home a new boyfriend, and neither is willing to seriously answer Sam's questions about why mom and dad don't sleep together.
Unwittingly becoming the center of a legal battle, Sam's sense of security is further destroyed when his mother kidnaps him. Meanwhile in a last ditch effort to gain custody, Robert uncovers more secrets that add to the child's confusion. Eventually presented with a choice of three possible daddies to pick from, the screenwriters still have the audacity to offer a happy ever after ending!
In a world where moral values are dying, it is the "Sams" that often live with the consequences. Looking at it from Sam's point of view, I would say the next best thing is a long way off from what every child deserves in this life.
The Next Best Thing is rated PG-13:
Studio: 2000 LakeShore Entertainment Corp/ Paramount Pictures