Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Directorial Debut: Danny Devito's THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN

Welcome to a new installment of DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, where we look at some of the best, most interesting, and iconic directors and the films that started their careers. This week we take a peek at Danny Devito's feature film directorial debut, THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN from 1987.

This film was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Two Strangers on a Train from 1951, which is also seen in the film. The plot is hilarious.  A novelist named Larry, played by Billy Crystal, has his book manuscript stolen by his ex-wife and she ends up making a significant amount of money. One of his students, Owen Lift, played by Devito, has issues as well. He takes care of his overbearing mother. Larry suggests that Owen watch Two Strangers on a Train to help him in his writing. After watching the film, Owen schemes to kill Margaret and in return expects Larry to kill his mother. Obviously, things don't go as planned.

I loved the chemistry between Devito and Crystal. They are both comedic geniuses as far as I'm concerned. My favorite scene was when Larry almost pushed Mrs. Lift from the train and Owen rescues her. Larry falls down on the tracks and breaks his leg. The situation wouldn't be funny in real life, but I laughed anyway because Billy Crystal and Danny Devito were able to take a horrific event and make it hilarious to audience members.

Before directing this, Devito had actually directed a cable television film called The Ratings Game in 1984, which he starred in with his wife, Rhea Perlman. I thought Devito did a great job directing and starring in this, however, I'm more familiar with him as an actor than director. His Taxi character Louie de Palma was brilliant, even though he lacked morals and mostly looked out for himself.  I loved watching him onscreen with Tony Danza and Rhea Perlman.

He's also been in other films and television shows as well. Notable films he's appeared in, well at least to me, are Ruthless People(1986), Twins(1988), Batman Returns(1992), Big Fish (2003), Duplex (2003) and many others. Oh, I forgot to mention War of the Roses, which he starred in and directed. He's also known for his superb work in television as well in shows such as Taxi, Saturday Night Live, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. 

He and Michael Shamburg went on to found the production company, Jersey Shores, which helped create films such as Garden State and Pulp Fiction. I was impressed, to say the least, because they are both fantastic films.

This film received mixed reviews from the critics, garnering a 61% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Most reviewers agreed that Devito and Crystal had great on-screen chemistry. Anne Ramsey was highly praised for her portrayal of the abrasive Mrs. Lift and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Danny Devito and Billy Crystal played off each other very well. This film is just many in a long and outstanding career for Devito, and it's one that everyone should check out.

Lisa's Score: 8/10

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