It’s the 30th anniversary of the 1986 comedy The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. Many people grew up on this film thanks to video rentals and its recurring airings on HBO in the ’80s and ’90s. For those unfamiliar, the movie is the tale of Walter (Hanks) and Anna (Long) who buy a house for a bargain, only to realize they pretty much got a lemon for it. Add in a lothario former lover (played by Alexander Godunov) and various workmen that complicate their lives, and the result is a farcical tale of home ownership and the strains that remodeling can put on a couple. Here’s the original trailer for the film:
The Money Pit was actually a remake of the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, which starred Cary Grant (and was remade again as the Ice Cube vehicle Are We Done Yet? in 2007), which in turn was based off a book of the same name by Eric Hodgins. As can be seen in the original trailer below for Mr. Blandings, that film was less of a visual comedy with setups and pratfalls than the two remakes that followed:
The Money Pit fell at an interesting time in Tom Hanks’ career, two years after the hit Splash but two years before his even bigger hit Big. At the time, the actor was known for mainly doing comedic roles (and would be for quite some time), and he’s on fire in The Money Pit as the beleaguered Walter who is slowly dwindling in debt thanks to this horrible moneysuck of a house and all its repairs. Add into that his insecurity about Long and Godunov’s relationship, which culminates with Long (possibly—it’s a long story) hooking up with Godunov and then confessing her affair to Hanks. This confession scene was later remade by the folks at Splot Studios as part of their TomHanksgiving Leftovers project:
But while Hank and Long play up their neuroses, the film has had staying power mainly thanks to its impressive visual stunts and gags. For example, there’s this perfectly executed Rube Goldberg-esque series of unfortunate events which all starts with one missed step and one unplugged saw that ends up turning into a giant debacle and bringing downing the entire scaffolding around the house.
There are many well-timed, perfectly executed sequences in the film (the stairs collapsing, Hanks falling into a hole in the floor) that helped make it a stand out to those young enough to be raised on the film. Additionally, The Money Pit is full of quotable lines (“Ah, home crap home”) and terrific performances (including early cameos by Joe Mantegna and Yakov Smirnoff). It’s not high art or sophisticated humor, but there are just enough clever turns in its physical comedy and insight into relationships to give it a bit of cult status for the past 30 years.