The Money Pit

The Money PitSynopsis: Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks stars with Shelley Long in this devastatingly hilarious comedy romp from executive producer Steven Spielberg.

Evicted from their Manhattan apartment, Walter and Anna (Hanks and Long) buy what looks like the home of their dreams-only to find themselves saddled with a bank-account-draining nightmare. Struggling to keep their relationship together as their rambling mansion falls to pieces around them, the two hapless homeowners watch in hilarious horror as everything-including the kitchen sink-disappears into The Money Pit.

It’s an outrageously entertaining comedy for everyone who’s ever been deeply in love…or deeply in debt.

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The Money Pit 4.0

eyelights: the basic premise. the main cast.
eyesores: the contrived, unclever script. the weak humour.

“It doesn’t make any sense, why would somebody be selling a million dollar house for a hundred thousand?”

‘The Money Pit’ is a 1986 comedy based on the 1948 Cary Grant/Myrna Loy vehicle ‘Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House’. Starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, it was a moderate hit, one of the few that Hanks or Long benefited from during that period.

It tells the story of Walter and Anna, who are without home when her ex returns unexpectedly from a year abroad and insists on moving back into his condo immediately. Stuck between a rock and hard place, Walter asks his friend, a John Candy-esque buffoon, for help.

Amazingly, he finds them a million dollar mansion an hour outside New York City for only 200 grand. Since there is nothing currently available in the Big Apple itself, let alone in their price range, they go visit it. However, they are immediately suspicious; it seems too good to be true.

Given only 24 hours to make up their mind by its current owner, who claims to have legal expenses she needs to deal with ASAP, they leap ahead – without having it inspected. Unfortunately, the moment that they move in, the house begins to crumble apart.

For no reason whatsoever. And in the most outlandish, ridiculous ways.

With nowhere left to go, and what little money they have pooled into the house, Walter and Anna are trapped in a “money pit”. They’re just going to have to stick it through and hope that they’ll be able to repair their broken home before it breaks them apart.

I still remember when ‘The Money Pit’ came out: a friend of mine had First Choice-Superchannel at the time and the trailer for it played incessantly. Frankly, it looked stupid and grating to me, and the cast didn’t interest me one bit, so I never got around to seeing it.

In fact, I avoided it.

I probably should have continued to, but I’d picked up a Tom Hanks three-movie set in which it was included. That the set cost me 3$ and that my aversion for Shelly Long diminished over the years, having rewatched her brilliant ‘Cheers’ episodes certainly played a part.

But the writing in ‘The Money Pit’ is nowhere near the stellar quality of those early ‘Cheers’ seasons. Long and Hanks are as good as usual, but the material simply doesn’t do them (or the audience) any favours, with dialogues full of poor exposition posing as punch lines.

Further to that, the characters’ motivations strained simple logic, like having Walter and Anna leave the house in the capable hands of a biker gang who clearly intended to demolish the exterior of the house – even though they were hired to fix the plumbing. It makes no sense.

And the picture dips its toes in clichés, like having tensions mount between thee couple by having Anna’s ex (who happens to be the conductor of her orchestra) try to win her back, or at least seduce her. How this was resolved was also rather weak, and unbelievable.

As for the humour, it largely consists of cheap, cartoonesque gags, many of which are old and uninspired. It all revolves around the mansion falling apart, which is done absurdly, unrealistically, as an exercise in slapstick. Some might like this, but I’ve seen it done better.

And that’s the general feeling one gets throughout ‘The Money Pit’: it’s been done much better. Although Walter and Anna are relatable enough and Hanks and Long perform well, they’re also relatively forgettable, leaving the filmmakers with very little to build on, or around.

In the end, this movie really is the pits.

Date of viewing: May 24, 2015

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