Entertainment lawyer Walter (Tom Hanks) has just received a letter from his father telling him that he has remarried, but won't be returning to the States, and he knows the reasons why. Walter is taken aback, and shares the news with his girlfriend Anna (Shelley Long), but conversation leads once more onto the subject of their own marriage, which she is reluctant to go through with having been married to Max (Alexander Godunov), one of the conductors of the orchestra she plays in. Nevertheless, they do decide to buy a house together, mainly because they're being evicted from their apartment by owner Max - should be simple, right?
Wrong, because this was one of those movies where the nice young couple goes through comic hell in the pursuit of a happy life, and one of the few flops of Tom Hanks' career. After its numerous showings on television, The Money Pit built up a small following among those who don't like their comedy too challenging, but there are plenty who still find it resistable, not least because it would be far more easy to relate to the tribulations of Walter and Anna if it didn't look as if they had set their hearts on starting a hotel business. Seriously, the modest home this supposedly short of cash couple move into is like some kind of mansion.
You could argue that as long as the viewer can relate to the problems the leads have in setting up their new house then they will be sympathetically laughing along with the jokes, but that would be to assume that there was more than one source of humour in the whole thing. The only gag that writer David Giler could muster was the one about the building falling to pieces in various ways, and even that isn't all that funny as they continually aim for the easiest, and therefore least amusing, laughs which results in a goodnatured but ultimately tiresome watch. It didn't help that Hanks and Long did nothing to make us believe that they would have got together in the first place.
Not an odd couple, then, but certainly a bland one, and after about half an hour of them suffering through the house gradually collapsing and unhelpful workmen taking ages to get anything done, you would have thought most sensible people would have given this up as a bad choice. Not here, as Walter and Anna risk life and limb as the wiring explodes, or the stairs collapse, or the bath falls through the floor, as all the while their utilities prove erratic and hard to rely on - a bit like the workmen. You begin to ponder why the couple stay together, as the can-do attitude they display rings pretty hollow after the umpteenth disaster sends them desperately shrugging off their woes.
This was a Steven Spielberg production, or at least one from his Amblin company, here setting his sights on a different, older audience to his family one that made him the success he was. The slapstick on display would indicate otherwise, with Hanks humiliated in complex but still stupid set ups, that is until Anna spends the night with Max after a good day with the orchestra, and she thinks she has slept with her ex, even though she can't remember. Walter grows suspicious, and before long a tediously contrived falling out has occurred even though the work on the house continues after four months of misery, which is about how long the film is beginning to feel. The Money Pit is not offensively bad, it's just that it needed a lot more to its humour than "Hanks fall down" to make a favourable impression with someone other than its small band of fans seeking mildest of mild laughs over anything too inventive. Music by Michel Colombier.