MOVIE REVIEW: “Throw Momma from the Train” stars Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [TV series]), Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally…, The Princess Bride), Kim Griest (Brazil, Manhunter), Anne Ramsey (The Goonies, Scrooged), Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager [TV series], Orange Is the New Black [TV series]), Branford Marsalis (School Daze, Mo’ Better Blues), Rob Reiner (All in the Family [TV series], This Is Spinal Tap), and Bruce Kirby (The Muppet Movie , Stand By Me). It is directed by Danny DeVito and written by Stu Silver (Soap [TV series], Good Grief [TV series]).
Larry Donner (Crystal), a writing teacher struggling with writer’s block, wants his book-idea-stealing ex-wife (Mulgrew) dead. Owen Lift (DeVito), an aspiring writer and Donner’s student, wants his harsh, bully of a mother (Ramsey) dead. Together, they may be able to resolve each other’s problem.
You mean to tell me that both Danny DeVito AND Billy Crystal starred in a movie together? How have I not heard of this until now!?
“Throw Momma from the Train” is a dark comedy for the ages. Not necessarily because it’s good, but more so because it is incredibly sadistic. Here we have two men who wish someone in their respective lives to die, only to make these wishes happen for each other when they cross paths. Granted, Crystal’s character of Larry doesn’t want to commit murder, but the journey he takes from civil to unhinged sticks with you. This is ultimately a film that I would have written at the start of my college tenure; I loved dark humor (and still do to a degree), and this is chock full of bleak material all in service to the musings of a comedian (that being the multi-talented DeVito, who also directed this piece).
The set-up for this tale rips straight from one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classics, “Strangers on a Train,” by giving us two people who commit evil acts for one another so that each of them could create alibis for themselves. They even had this film featured within the storyline, as DeVito’s character of Owen got his hair-brained scheme by watching “Strangers on a Train” in a theater. So, I guess this makes it an homage? Either way, it’s a fun set-up that creates some funny situations for our lead characters, who both have great chemistry and are at the top of their comedic game.
Seeing Crystal and DeVito act alongside each other is the best part of this movie. It was a comedic powerhouse that I enjoyed witnessing, as the two complimented each other in their contrasting roles. Crystal was the straight-man with an anger problem, whereas DeVito was a quiet, somewhat deranged man. This lent to some memorable moments and twisted circumstances. Particularly involving DeVito’s mother in the movie, played by Anne Ramsey. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, and I can see why; to have a mom like her would be a nightmare, making it all the more understandable why Owen would want her dead (no matter how messed up that sounds). Ramsey crushed it, and the scenes at her house were quite unsettling.
On paper, there is a lot to appreciate about this flick. The performances are electric and the set-ups are fun. However, as I watched this journey unfold, I had no idea how to react. Dark comedy is usually a highly entertaining genre for me, but recently my tastes have been re-shaping. There were only a few moments where I genuinely laughed at this film, whereas for the rest of it I sat massaging my chin. It was strange and didn’t sit well with me at times; the filmmaking style held some fairly horrific shots, all meant to amp up the twisted nature of this narrative. I understood it, but didn’t necessarily fall in love. And in some strange way, I was kind of disappointed they didn’t go all the way. By the end of the movie, everything resolved itself in a fashion that seemed like the writer chickened out. It was as if they couldn’t separate themselves completely from the Hollywood way of telling things.
Overall, “Throw Momma from the Train” is an entertaining adventure with wonderful comedic acting and brilliant chemistry between Crystal and DeVito. If you love dark humor, this is beaming with it. Aside from being unsettled or perturbed at parts, I found it to be uniquely intriguing. FINAL SCORE: 78%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: