Monday 7 May 2012

Movie Review: The Money Pit (1986)

The house is the star, but The Money Pit is still funny.

New Yorkers Walter (Tom Hanks) and Anna (Shelley Long) are in a long term relationship, but financially strapped. He is a music agent, she is a violinist in an orchestra, and after getting kicked out of their apartment, they purchase a grand house in the suburbs for a low price that seems way too good to be true.  It is.

The house is barely held together by the paint, and soon after they move in, it starts collapsing all around them. From the front door to the staircase, from the plumbing to the electrical system, from the bathtub to the flooring, everything about the house is either dangerously faulty or ready to cave in on itself. To afford the repairs, Anna has to borrow money from former lover Max (Alexander Godunov), causing a strain on the relationship with Walter. Eventually, an army of contractors moves in for a long repair and rebuilding job, forcing Walter and Anna to live through one large headache of a renovation.

Tom Hanks and Shelley Long do their best, but they, like the rest of the film, are swallowed by the tricked-out house at the centre of The Money Pit. The movie becomes an exercise in anticipating what the house will do next, and any character-driven plot elements are forced to the margins.

Director Richard Benjamin, well-backed by a team of high-powered producers including Steven Spielberg, makes the most of what he has to work with, and delivers a house-full of spectacular laughs. The collapsing grand staircase and the electrical fire in the kitchen are classic comedy moments, overdone to perfection with Hanks the victim in both cases.

With the stars playing second fiddle to a house, the supporting cast are pushed all the way out to the edge of irrelevance. At least Alexander Godunov makes an impact with plenty of wavy hair and oodles of European smarm as Anna's still smitten former lover. Others, like Joe Mantegna and Maureen Stapleton, make the briefest of appearances before disappearing.

The Money Pit not just consumes huge financial resources, it also sucks in all the acting talent into the vacuum of special effects. The superficial laughs are good, but the depth of emotion that can only be delivered by humans is missing.

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