Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House April 8, 2017
1948’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is something akin to a pair of worn out, dependably comfortable socks. The product is soft, predictably snug, and maybe in need of a less tattered replacement. Let’s call it the cinematic aftermath of the days of the screwball comedy, the usual young and sexy characters now old and domesticated and wanting more out of life than the seeking of hedonistic pleasure.
Foreseeably, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is witty and features characters with their neuroses all out of whack – screwball dependables – but it also feels like a second cousin hardly as acidic, preferring tired sitcom flavors to the sprightly zings of other housebroken genre features like My Favorite Wife (1940) or The Palm Beach Story (1942). How much it succeeds depends on how much you take a liking to its ensemble.
Which isn’t hard, considering that the movie stars Cary Grant and Myrna Loy as a long-married couple, Jim and Muriel Blandings, living in a packed New York apartment with their two young daughters (Connie Marshall and Sheryl Moffett). The intention to move somewhere more easily able to accommodate their needs has never really been discussed, as Jim is happy at his accounting job and his girls are too far into their schooling to want to redefine their lives.
But when it’s discovered that Muriel has secretly been planning on renovating their space for the last couple of months, Jim reaches a kind of epiphany, especially after seeing an ad for new homes available for purchase in Connecticut. Suddenly, living in the country in a spacious lodge of sorts sounds irreversibly appealing.
Problem is is that all the homes in the Blandings’ price range are more or less in terrible shape. The only practical method of attaining their architectural dream, then, is total renovation, total deconstruction of the property in place and starting from scratch. At first, the idea seems novel, obtainable. But the more the Blandings take on the roles of fixer-uppers the more issues they run into. Which, of course, also leads to problems in their familial dynamic.
And it’s all about as facilely complicated as that. Maybe analytics would like to think Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is a satirical take on how strenuous attempting to achieve the American Dream can be once you really try to make it a thing. But in actuality is the picture little more than a pleasant lark that gets us to care about a family and their striving to invigorate their lives through restoration. Much of the film’s enjoyment stems specifically from Grant and Loy, who can make even the slightest of a comedy film thoroughly charismatic simply by sticking around.
But as opposed to, say, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, the 1947 romp which saw the twosome tagging along with Shirley Temple in a farce carried by charm not completely reliant on the people starring, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is strictly cozy escapism, conflicts minimal and rifts romanticized. It’s not great – barely good, in fact – but not liking a film headlined by Grant and Loy is unthinkable. B-