By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: New house falls apart.
Terri (Joy Smithers) is tired of living in a trailer and begs her husband Des (Martin Sacks) to finally buy a house, so they can live in the burbs and be a part of the middle-class dream. After saving up enough money they put a down payment on a brand new home, but the home begins to have a lot of problems. Both Terri and Des are forced to work longer hours at their jobs in order to keep up with the bills. What seemed like a dream at first soon turns into a nightmare making living in a trailer, which they initially hated, now seem like a good idea.
This film has a lot of similarities to Steven Spielberg’s The Money Pit, which came out a year later, but this one is more amusing, at least at the beginning. Spielberg’s film, which was directed by Richard Benjamin, was too cartoonish and silly and failed to make any broader statement other than wild comical antics. This one takes more of a satirical approach and shows how suburban life may not be as great as advertised and in some ways just plain not worth it. One of the funnier moments is when Terri gets home from her overnight job and the second she walks through the door immediately falls to the floor in exhaustion while her tired husband, who’s getting ready to go to his second job, steps over her while going out the door without so much as giving her a greeting.
I did like too that this movie doesn’t immediately go over-the-top with the problems of the home repairs. The Money Pit, in my opinion, ruined things by having everything go wonky right from the start, which didn’t allow for any buildup while this one keeps the tension by showing things not working as they should and making you interested in seeing if it’s going to get worse. The nightmarish elements aren’t just isolated to the home either as their son Jack (Jack Ellis) must put up with bullies at his new school and the couple also deals with nosy, meddling neighbors.
I was surprised by the abundance of nudity, at least during the first act, which is something you’d never see in a Hollywood movie, where nudity is usually only shown in film’s aimed at adults, or with adult themes, instead of a movie like this that would otherwise be perfect for the general public. I’m not sure exactly why director Denny Lawrence decided to put it in as it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot and could’ve easily been left out, but I can only presume that because Australia is a more secular country they’re less uptight about showing skin and therefore don’t worry, or fear, that putting it into a movie, even one as otherwise innocuous as this, will be a problem, or get backlash.
What I didn’t like though was Joy Smithers as the mother. While she certainly looks beautiful, both with her clothes on and off, she was, at age 22, too young to be portraying a suburban mother of a 10-year-old child. Her acting was problematic too especially her scenes where she’s supposed to be upset that doesn’t convey the subtle comic element that a better actress could’ve brought out.
The third act, outside of seeing an outrageous looking BBQ pit built by the husband, fails to have much of a payoff. Many of the problems with the house never get properly addressed. For instance the shower knobs blow off the wall and spew streams of water everywhere, but the film cuts away without showing how they managed to get it under control. Having the entire house ultimately collapse isn’t impressive either as it looks too much like a prop house made of cardboard instead of brick and mortar.
I was disappointed too that the dark comical edge gets lost with a sitcom-styled wrap-up that seemed to lose complete sight of the main point, which ultimately makes the film as a whole quite transparent and forgettable.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: September 12, 1985
Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
Director: Denny Lawrence
Studio: Palm Beach Pictures
Available: DVD (Region 4 Import)
I agree with your assessment. I saw this recently, after reading glowing reviews of people, including David Stratton, who saw it in the 80s, but it’s very underwhelming. It has a few funny moments, but it’s more often just silly and lame. Many people compare it to The Castle, but it just isn’t as clever or funny as that film.