The Money Pit (1986)

Rating: D+

Dir: Richard Benjamin
Star: Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godunov, Maureen Stapleton

When this film celebrates the destruction and collapse, both of a glorious old house, and the sanity of lawyer Walter Fielding (Hanks), this is quite wonderful. When it’s trotting out the pedestrian love-triangle between him, Anna (Long) and her ex-husband (Godunov)…much less so. That side of things, we’ve seen a million times before, and the film makes no effort to do anything outside the standard Hollywood conventions, or even interesting. Does anyone really doubt that our hero will end up getting the girl? And the thumping inevitability with which this occurs is mind-numbingly tedious. Now, it’s obvious the house is being used as a metaphor for the central relationship: both collapse in near-perfect synch, and then are rebuilt – into even greater majesty after being tested and, initially, found wanting. Subtle, it isn’t.

But the building does, at least, have real flaws – as opposed to the central plot element threatening the relationship, which is, in fact, non-existent. Done right, this could have been an honest look at how true love can withstand almost anything, and come out the far side stronger for being tested. This might have been a misguided attempt to avoid pinning blame; instead, the result makes both parties look like idiots. The actual climax is a wonderful sequence in the middle, that’s a life-size version of the game Mousetrap, and has Walter staggering around from one construction disaster into another. It’d be a fitting climax to the film. Unfortunately it happens less than half-way through, and everything is downhill from there on.