"Like Amityville...only with Shelley Long instead of an evil spirit."
Someday Tom Hanks is gonna have to make another comedy. I hope that now that he’s proved himself as a performer capable of carrying a drama, he will see fit to bring the silly once again. The Money Pit is a perfect example of early Hanks; light comedic farce carried off with a grace that’s missing in much of the comedy of today.I’m not denigrating the work he has done in the time since he decided he wanted to be taken seriously. It’s just that while he was known for being funny his stuff was consistently enjoyable. I’m talking from ‘Batchelor Party’ to ‘A League of Their Own’ here. I only exclude ‘Splash’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ because rom/coms are a different animal. I’m just saying that he’s made his point. He can relax a bit and do something quality and still frivolous again.
I keep hearing that Hanks is this generation’s equivalent to Jimmy Stewart. I can buy that to a certain extent, though I think Gary Sinese is a better ‘every-man’ which is usually what they are touting. I tend to think of him as a modern Carey Grant more than anything else. He is capable of being the dramatic center of a movie, and just as comfortable with abject bug-eyed comedic panic. The latter is on full display here as Walter Fielding (Hanks) and his wife Anna (The remarkably extraneous Shelley Long) buy the house of their dreams only to watch it fall apart around their ears.
It’s in the falling apart that the movie really shines, there are some classic pratfall routines here. It is almost enough to make you want to turn the sound down and pretend you are watching an old silent short. One in particular involving the Fielding’s trying to go about their morning stands out. It starts with them waking up, and ends with Hanks outside in the fountain covered in concrete, and what happens in between is like a live action version of the game Mousetrap. Sure it’s been done before, probably it’s even been done better but Hanks has a considerable gift for physical comedy and that can make up for quite a bit.
If I could change one thing about this movie, it would have to be the casting of Shelley Long. In her third film role since taking on Cheers she dosen’t so much act as she channels Dianne Chambers into a completely different story. (I might be tempted to chalk this up to typecasting, were it not for the fact that she has more or less done the same thing in every role she’s been cast in to date.) But in 1986 Cheers was running high in the public affection department so using her as the female lead must have felt like a forgone conclusion. The problem is that her talents don’t match up evenly with her co-star’s so the movie feels quite literally imbalanced. The only time she really holds her own is towards the end when she begins to break under the stress, and it feels like she only carries this off because she has Hanks to react to.
The supporting cast is colorful and quirky, and for the most part, the quirks don’t come off as forced. With a couple of exceptions it seems like these two people just know some really odd folks. It’s nice to see things underplayed sometimes.Not anything I would go out of my way to own, or even see again. But it’s not the worst way I can think of to get a few yucks. If Mr. Hanks chose his comedic roles with the same discipline he has applied to his more dramatic fair; it would really be something to see. Here’s hoping he makes his way back to the laughs someday.