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Ahhh. Home, Crap, Home

By Dustin Rowles | Hangover Theater | June 16, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Hangover Theater | June 16, 2009 |

There are two types of people in this world: People who like The Money Pit and people who have never seen it. If you’ve seen it and didn’t like it, clearly you are an alien and I look forward to your role in the upcoming District 9. I hope those internment camps can contain your loathing of mankind, your existential despair, and your pokey devil horns, you hater of life, you crotchety cow-faced killer of joy, rainbows, and Peanut M&Ms.

The Money Pit isn’t just a great hangover movie. Sure, it’s great for the occasion — it’ll distract you from the beer bottle full of floating cigarette butts resting next to the couch where you are laying, paralyzed by a dull ache that throbs in the back of your head. But in these times of economic strife, The Money Pit is also the perfect unemployment movie: An escapist comedy you can watch on your couch, in your underwear, unshowered and disheveled, with crumbs from pizza crust relaxing in your chest hair or between your bosom, whatever the case may be. The Money Pit will not judge. It will wink at your sloth. It will pat you on your naked back and tell you it’s going to be OK. It will also suggest that you need not bother scouring the net for unsuitable work or update your resume for at least another hour and a half. The Money Pit doesn’t care if you have a job or not, and for a brief time, you can celebrate the comedic misery of others. You may be two months behind on your rent and a week from rooming with a man who soils himself and claims he’s the King of Prussia, but at least you’re not trying to remodel your house.

For anybody who has had strange men in their house who destroy your sheetrock and insist with the friendliest smile possible that they are only two weeks from completion two weeks after they first made that assessment, then you’re sure to relate to at least some extent with the plight of Walter and Anna, the couple at the center of The Money Pit. Walter (Tom Hanks) is a conventional kind of guy. “That’s all I ever wanted to be. A house in the suburbs. A little dog. A white picket fence. 2.4 kids. “He and Anna, an orchestra musician, are in a committed relationship, though not married. Anna is wary of marriage after her first one to Max, an arrogant, narcissistic orchestra conductor (Alexander Godunov, Die Hard), fell apart. She’s since been living in his old apartment with Walter, until Max decided to return from Europe, forcing Walter and Anna to find a place of their own.

So, they go real-estate hunting with their agent (Wayne Kramer), and find a house that looks too good to be true (“this is the short line at motor vehicles”). Of course it is. They are given a short tour, shown only select parts of the house, and given a sob story by a kind old lady quick to vacate. Walter and Anna quickly pony up $400,000 and move in immediately. What they discover, of course, is that the house is covered in lemon rind. The stair case falls in. The water “has legs.” There’s complete wood rot. It rains into the bedroom. The electrical work is shot. The porcelain bathtub falls through the ceiling and shatters. Even the goddamn trees are weak.

“It just needs a little care and imagination and a positive attitude,” Walter says. Six months and a hundred thousand dollars later, Anna and Walter have a huge construction crew basically living in their home, they’re broke, and they’re relationship is suffering from all the strain. “Here lies Walter Felding,” says Walter. “He bought a house. And it killed him.”

Like the atrocious Are We There Yet?, The Money Pit is a loose remake of Cary Grant’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. It’s not a particularly inventive or original movie, Richard Benjamin’s direction (Milk Money, My Stepmother is an Alien) can, at best, be described as serviceable for the 80s, and Shelly Long isn’t exactly Myrna Loy. What makes The Money Pit so fantastically watchable, however, is Tom Hanks. Two years from his first Oscar in Big, this is the Tom Hanks that we all fell in love with, the man who made nothing but lightweight, immensely watchable comedies, and perhaps the only man in the world who could have made The ‘burbs and Joe vs. The Volcano classic TBS standbys. This is the Tom Hanks we still see occasional glimmers of during talk show appearances: The personably, relatable, likable regular Joe. And in The Money Pit, his comic timing is perfect. The Money Pit offers the perfect reminder of why Tom Hanks is one of the biggest movie stars around.

And if there is one reason to see The Money Pit it is this: The Best Laugh Scene in the history of movie comedies:

All I’m saying is: If you’re unemployed, bored, and need 90 minutes of comedic schadenfreude, then The Money Pit is for you. And if you’re gainfully employed, then The Money Pit offers a nice excuse to quit your job.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. You can email him or leave a comment below.