Picks and Pans Review: The Money Pit

updated 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Step right up, folks, fork over the price of admission, and watch the pit swallow your money before you can cry foul over this labored farce. There's a good comedy movie in the subject of an urban couple trying to build a country house that drains their patience and bank account. That movie was 1948's Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. This sledgehammer update seems perversely geared to bring out the worst in all the top talents involved. The biggest mystery is why executive producer Steven Spielberg chose to provide this film with the inflated jokiness of his jumbo fiasco, 1941. Director Richard Benjamin, known for his success with period films (My Favorite Year, Racing With the Moon, City Heat), now goes thuddingly contemporary. And the actors visibly strain for laughs; you can see them sweating. Tom Hanks, who proved himself an adroit charmer in Splash, calls instead on the shrill antics that crushed his follow-up roles in The Man With One Red Shoe and Bachelor Party. Shelley Long, who can be a sweetheart on TV's Cheers, can also be cloyingly cute when a script leaves her stranded as David (The Black Bird) Giler's Pit script frequently does. Even such expert Broadway actors as Maureen Staple-ton, Joe Mantegna and Philip Bosco lapse into caricature. True, Alexander Godunov (who made a strong acting debut last year in Witness) isn't bad as Long's sex-crazed ex-husband. But a comedy in which a ballet dancer still struggling with English gets the most laughs is its own worst enemy. Like the white-elephant house from which it takes its title, The Money Pit should have stayed closed for renovations. (PG)

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