See It Instead: Mother’s Day Edition.
Get your mother what she really wants: three cheesy comedies with mom in the title!
Mother’s Day is upon us again, so we’re back to pick three movies you can share with your dear old mom. Picking three films appropriate to the holiday is harder than it would seem: most movies about mom are either trite Hallmark card comedies, or they feature the most terrifying mothers on the planet. To play it safe, I decided to pick out three comedies with “mom” in the title that might bring a little cheer into your mother’s heart on her special day.
Mother’s Day Pick 1: Throw Momma from the Train (1987).
Owen (Danny DeVito) is a would-be writer who suffers under the constant verbal abuse of his very cranky mother (Anne Ramsey…from, you guessed it, The Goonies!) After watching a Hitchcock drama about two strangers on a train agreeing to murder each others’ spouses to avoid police suspicion, he decides to rope his writing workshop coach Larry (Billy Crystal) into the plan by killing Larry’s ex-wife, a woman who stole his magnum opus and passed it off as her own. Larry becomes an unwilling and unwitting accessory to Owen’s boneheaded plan.
This was DeVito’s first turn at directing as well as starring in a movie, and he zigged where many expected him to zag. Known for his many irascible and sleazy characters, he instead delivered a meek and put-upon portrayal a dutiful son who is pushed to his breaking point. Owen’s ineptitude for crime mainly arises from the fact that at his core he is a nice guy. It’s actually Larry who has a vicious streak in him, and putting up with Owen’s crazy ideas and his hilariously offensive mother is what eventually causes him to crack. The best part of this film is watching Anne Ramsey steal every scene from these two accomplished comedians, as she sells her jokes with gusto.
As a riff on Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, it’s a fun dark comedy that never gets too dark. Those hoping for a truly villainous turn from DeVito should check out his father’s day offering instead!
Mother’s Day Pick 2: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! (1992).
Joe (Sylvester Stallone) is a tough-guy cop who always gets his man. This time around, he gets a little help from his mom (Estelle Getty) when she witnesses a crime while staying with Joe, and leads him on an accident prone investigation that involves murder, arson, and a shoot out in an airport.
Well. This is certainly one buddy cop movie that didn’t make my top ten list. The film is pretty awful, but has mellowed with age as the jokes are more silly than disappointing. It’s almost a film so bad its good…but it missed that top ten list as well! Stallone trotted out a couple comedies where he played a tough guy thwarted by wacky events that never really took off (looking at you, Oscar.) Despite sharing the same DNA as many of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comedies of the same era, Stallone just couldn’t make it work.
In fact, the script for Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot was offered to Arnie first, and he only pretended to be interested because he knew Stallone would take on the role after he passed. That is some premium East German trolling. At least Stallone was a good sport about it all, calling the film one of the worst movies in the solar system, and blaming it for lowering the birth rate in China.
Mother’s Day Pick 3: Mommie Dearest (1981)
A melodramatic biography of screen legend Joan Crawford (played to the fiery hilt by Faye Dunaway) and her troubled relationship with her adopted children, particularly her daughter Christina Crawford.
Mommie Dearest didn’t start out life as a comedy…but by the end of the first month of reviews, even the studio execs realized that the film was better as a giggle flick than a serious work of drama, changing the tag line of the film to insinuate that the film was an intentional comedy (it was not.) Dunaway gives a legendarily oversized performance as Crawford, bulldozing her costars and their dialogue with her scene-stealing takes. Given the touchy subject material being in-artfully handled by director Frank Perry and Dunaway’s overbearing performance, it’s no surprise that the film became infamous.
Mommie Dearest must have done something right – or more likely something so completely wrong that everyone needed to see it to ensure that it was real. The film returned 39 million dollars on a 5 million dollar budget and made the AFI’s top 100 list…for best movie villains. Watching this epic debacle has become a right of passage for film buffs, so grab some popcorn and treat mom to a truly unbelievable Mother’s Day film.