It's funny how the very first collaboration between now big movie star Tom Hanks and huge directing talent Steven Spielberg as a co-executive producer only gained so little attention from audiences.
The Money Pit is a 1986 romantic comedy directed by Richard Benjamin, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in the leading roles. The Money Pit is rock solid comedy entertainment spiced up with some very creative special effects that make watching a mansion slowly crumble to pieces a real treat.
So why does nobody talk about it that much?
Let's take a look at The Money Pit in another segment of "Movies Nobody Talks About".
But what exactly is The Money Pit about?
Well, the premise of the movie is actually fairly simple: Walter Fielding (Tom Hanks) and Anna Crowley (Shelley Long) have to start looking for a new house- but there's not much they can afford. This soon changes when they meet a lonely and desperate old con artist who sells them a beautiful mansion at a ridiculously low price. Only there's a catch: the second they move into the house it falls apart, starting with the stairway collapsing to the bathtub falling through the floor to eventually the chimney falling into the house! Finally, they have to renovate the house before the frame collapses but the renovations also prove to be a disaster.
Topping this all off, is the fact that the couple's struggles to get the mansion back in shape proves to become a test for their relationship. With a rich ex-boyfriend trying to get Anna back into his arms all the while Walter is having physical and mental breakdowns regarding the mansion, it's all a great blend of a traditional omcom mixed together with plenty of great slapstick scenes.
While it's fair to say that The Money Pit takes a bit too much time to introduce its characters and get rolling with the main plot involving the mansion, once the movie gets there, it's very well paced all the way through.
Much like in other movies, like Poltergeist or Gremlins, that seemlessly blend multiple movie genres together into one and surprisingly enough work out really well, you can easily see Steven Spielberg's universally entertaining producing genius shine through here. Although he is not actually directing the movie, you can clearly tell that his advice was very much influencing the tone and mixture of romance, comedy and practical effects use here. Spielberg's producing talent might have weakened after the turn of the 2000s, yet especially during the 80s, that talent was in full force.
|That mansion indeed sounds too good to be true.|
But why wasn't The Money Pit that much of a hit even though every ingredient in the movie seemed perfect for it?
Though not a huge flop or anything, The Money Pit's total box office gross of roughly 55 Mio. dollars compared to its 10 Mio. dollar budget indeed must've come off quite a bit disappointing for Universal Pictures. But how come that this romantic comedy, that not only includes one of Tom Hanks' best comedic performances to date combined with awesome practical effects had so little effect on audiences?
While effective marketing is always a huge factor in this, it's definitely save to say that 1986 as a whole was an extremely competitive year in films: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Golden Child (Eddie Murphy was THE comedy star back then), Top Gun and James Cameron's sci-fi heavy hitter Aliens.
On top of that, many critics felt very mixed about The Money Pit: some critics called it "lackluster" and "a stop-and-go feature" with pacing issues, but nevertheless praised Tom Hanks' elevating comedic performance which many say "saved the movie".
Granted that it's, as already mentioned, save to say that the movie does indeed take some time to get rolling, it's nowhere near the lackluster and unfun experience many critics make it out to be. And seeing it now outside of the "80s bubble", it's actually even something that could be desribed as a hidden gem that only really shines today.
|Many critics felt very mixed about The Money Pit.|
Looking at the almost showstealing effects in the movie, one initially would think "Well, how much entertainment can a movie hold by simply showing how a mansion falls apart within a roughly 2 hours?".
Well, romance plot aside, it's actually quite astonishing in how many creative ways Spielberg and director Richard Benjamin manage to make the mansion "demolish itself" and fall apart amusing and fun to watch. A complete set of stairs crumbling under the feet of Tom Hanks, the electrical wires in the walls going haywire, or Tom Hanks falling from one flat to the one below through the floor. What makes all this even more amazing is that this all had been achieved only through good old practical effects. There are no CGI bathtubs crumbling on the ground but it's all real and done with real actors and stuntmen putting themselves in danger. This is the way slapstick should always be done and keeping in mind that Tom Hanks, who we all now know from way more serious roles, makes it all even more fun to watch.
His performance here is by far his best comedic effort because he absolutely excells in selling the character of the desperate Walter Fielding. Adding to that is the great writing that makes both Walter Fielding and his girlfriend Anna seem like the most optimistic people on the planet even despite the mansion turning more and more into a stressful nightmare. Small successes like the mansion finally getting a new set of stairs feel like giant victories and godsends to them - and the viewer truely feels happy as well seeing the couple finally making progress and turning their fates around.
Whereas you actually buy the fact that both Walther and Anna are trying to build up a solid future together and try to ignore the crumbling cheap mansion as a bad omen for their relationship, it's especially the writing in some parts that make the romance plot involving Anna's rich ex-lover Max a bit hit and miss.
With Anna constantly getting hit on by Max, and in some parts even falling for his attempts, Walter/Tom Hanks always remains the good soul throughout the movie. His justified suspicions towards her cheating on him with Max along with the mansion troubles turn out as a big test considering the strength of their relationship. In theory, this is a nice way to embed the romance plot and romance troubles within the framework of the mansion action, especially since couples moving together into one place is in some way always a relationship test in real life.
|Be prepared to not like Anna as much towards the end.|
What gives the movie trouble making it work out though, is the way Anna is showcased in her scenes with Max and especially the last act. Despite the viewer trying to still like her, it becomes fairly difficult towards the end of the movie to do so. Even though the movie ultimately ends in a happy manner, the final moral the movie tries to shove in comes off very unconvincing to say the least. Although Walter and Anna still remain a happy couple and actually manage to save the mansion, one cannot shake off the feel that despite the two loving each other, that Walter is easily a just too goodhearted person for Anna and that some crucial story elements that could've actually helped their relationship and solved misunderstandings aren't brought up and shoved aside.
Of course in some way this is all a question of opinion, the ending and strange moral feels a bit sugercoated despite its bitter center (if that makes sense) and leaves somewhat of a weird aftertaste for the viewer after the credits roll.
|"A hidden gem produced by Spielberg?"|
The Money Pit is a great and heavily overlooked and underappreciated 80s romantic comedy spiced up with plenty of fun slapstick and awesome practical demolition effects.
Though its romantic plot and final moral leaves some things to be desired, the movie nevertheless gets the job done to portray a couple fighting to get their relationship working amongst loads of creative ways co-executive producer Steven Spielberg and director Richard Benjaming make their newly bought mansion fall apart.
With Spielberg already having showcased his talent of mixing multiple movie genres together in a very entertaining way during the 80s, The Money Pit is no exception in that regard. It might start off things relatively slow, but as soon as the main plot kicks in, the movie becomes rock solid entertainment throughout with Tom Hanks' most probably best comedic performance to date. It's definitely one of those movies that get perceived more positively with age - and hopefully get appreciated and talked about more with time.
Where to see it:
The Money Pit is realtively easy to come across or simply order on DVD or Blu-Ray, while it probably won't be aired that often on TV.