Having the word “unauthorized” in the title of your film comes with certain promises — particularly some level of salaciousness, drama or intrigue that the participants of the story in question would rather not be made public. On this count, Lifetime’s “The Unauthorized Full House Story” fails completely. The story, as told here, is almost entirely without dramatic tension, and the subjects involved — the cast of ABC’s hit late ’80s sitcom “Full House” — would probably not want audiences to see it only because it makes them all seem so boring.
To be clear, no one really expects these new exercises from Lifetime to be good, per se. The bar for quality is set pretty low. But this entry, unlike the previous “Save by the Bell” exposé, does nothing to justify its own existence. A lot of that has to do with the limitations of basic cable standards. It’s no secret that series star Bob Saget’s very adult brand of comedy was at odds with the show’s saccharine flavor, but it’s hard to illustrate how that caused tension on the kid-filled set when the most risqué material Saget (as played by Garrett Brawith) can demonstrate involves suggestive dancing with a mannequin accompanied by PG language.
But maybe you’re just tuning in for the bad wigs, stilted dialogue and questionable casting choices. For the main trio of grown-up “Full House” stars, the actors look like strangely afflicted versions of their real-life counterparts. You have Dave Coulier with some sort of face-swelling allergic reaction (Justin Mader), Bob Saget after suffering a stroke (Brawith) and John Stamos (Justin Gaston) with either Bell’s palsy or early, faulty Botox.
The casting for the kids fares a little better, with young Candace Cameron (Shelby Armstrong) providing a passable facsimile — at least until an awkward time-jump. By far the best look-alike casting is done for Andrea Barber, who played Kimmy Gibler (played by Aislyn Watson and Jaime Schneider), but then she only gets two or three scenes in the entire movie.
Period details shouldn’t be that hard to hit, and yet the results are distractingly off. The audience at a comedy club looks like they’re watching a stand-up act last week, not 30 years ago. And while copyright rules probably made it impossible to do an exact replica of the “Full House” set, the one used in this film is still weirdly unfamiliar.
So what works about it? Very little, but there is the initial pitch scene, in which Jeff Franklin (Matthew Kevin Anderson) pivots artfully from a show about three comedians living together to something more family-friendly. Less effective are scenes trying to create suspense where there isn’t any, like Franklin waiting to hear from the network about whether or not the show will be renewed for a second season.
If you make it to the end, you’ll get to see the story continue beyond the show’s cancellation, stretching years later with some scattershot biographical details culminating in Candice Cameron’s wedding so that the characters can get a happy ending. Oh, and then Dave Coulier starts narrating out of nowhere for some reason.
“The Unauthorized Full House Story” premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.