The Money Pit
May 22, 2023
1 Hr., 31 Mins.
he Money Pit (1986) is a comedy so overrun with misfortune that it often can feel more like a horror movie positioning frights like sitcom gags. It’s a film about the disastrous effects of an unthinkably bad financial decision — one that only could have been made by someone on the outs with a sound state of mind.
The young couple making it, Walter and Anna (Tom Hanks and Shelley Long), are too desperate to think rationally. They’re subletting their apartment from Anna’s ex-husband, a flashily supercilious European conductor (Alexander Godunov), when he without warning returns way earlier than he originally said he would. He demands they leave. They don’t have enough money between them to afford an adequate apartment in the New York City they call home, so it sounds more miracle than profoundly red red flag when an untrustworthy real estate agent friend of Walter’s tips them off to a countryside mansion big enough to house a king going for a mere $200,000.
When they pay a visit to its current owner — an eccentric (Maureen Stapleton) 60-something in flux because her husband has been arrested — they don’t find it odd that their host keeps all the lights off in favor of candles and does suspiciously generous things like give them her vintage car away practically for the fun of it. It’s clear that there are reasons besides her husband’s arrest that make the owner desperate to get the hell away from here, but before a thought like that could cross Walter and Anna’s heads they’re securing the money necessary for the purchase and voila!
Practically neither can finish saying “home, sweet home” before their huge mistake becomes obvious. What the owner’s collection of candlelight obscured is that the house is practically falling apart. The floors are prone to capricious collapses, the electricity to fitful explosions, the water to not even attempting to follow through after coughing up a few promising puffs of bone-dry dirt.
There will, of course, be even more trouble on the homefront; The Money Pit rather monotonously doesn't emerge as a lot more than a series of set pieces dedicated to the various, and increasingly dramatic, ways the home continues its slow-coming crumbling. When it’s not focused on architectural mayhem, it’s about how Walter and Anna’s relationship struggles under the weight of a domestic life far heavier than they’d expected. If the movie cared nearly as much about getting into the contours of their relationship as it did sight gags like the staircase falling down like a Jenga set or Anna having to fend off a mouthy critter that sneaks into the home, The Money Pit might have done something interesting with the idea of the home as a metaphor for their relationship writ large. Things will only get better if they fix the stuff they’d prefer not to see.
Hanks and Long give appealing performances, and at least the film isn’t entirely laugh-free: Stapleton is a dippy riot, so unpredictable it’s like she’s making up her loco lines as she’s going along, and some of the home-as-a-disaster-site gags are decent, like the one where Hanks unluckily turns into the human equivalent of a finger starting the movement on a Rube Goldberg machine while dangling over some construction work on the home’s exterior. But the narrative repetitiveness makes a relatively short 90 minutes go by slowly. You wait patiently for The Money Pit to do something besides have a certain part of the house reveal that it’s busted, but it turns out that there’s no end to the bottom of this pit. C+