Throw Momma from the Train (1987)
January 8, 2018 10:48 AM - Subscribe

In his directorial debut, Danny DeVito plays Owen, the put-upon momma's boy who enlists his writing teacher (Billy Crystal) in a Strangers on a Train-style murder scheme.

"[A] fun and delightfully venal comedy. Very clever and engaging from beginning to end." - Variety

"Mr. Crystal and Mr. DeVito ... make one of the oddest pairs imaginable but have a rapport that's a delight." - Janet Maslin

"Throw Momma from the Train is a series of missed opportunities and unexploited situations, a movie that wants to have genuine nastiness at its heart but never quite works up the energy or the nerve to be truly heartless." - Roger Ebert

"You can feel how much fun it was for DeVito to direct this. But the movie's one-note broadness seems suited more to cable." - Desson Thomson

Also starring Kim Greist, Kate Mulgrew, Branford Marsalis, Rob Reiner, Oprah Winfrey, Raye Birk (of Naked Gun 1 and 3) as Pinksy…and of course, Anne Ramsey as Momma. Cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Academy Award, Best Supporting Actress (Anne Ramsey)
Golden Globe, Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Danny DeVito)
Golden Globe, Best Supporting Actress (Anne Ramsey)

Saturn Award, Best Supporting Actress (Anne Ramsey)

Tangentially relevant: As of 2015, David Fincher and Gillian Flynn were apparently planning a remake of Strangers on a Train (article mentions Throw Momma at the end)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The follow up film for the actress who lead the crime family in Goonies. It's been a long time since I last watched it, but I recalled giving the film something of a B rating in my head. It had wonderful actors of the decade, Billy Crystal and Danny Devito, and somehow it felt as if it should have been far funnier than it ended up being. Devito's calm demeanor just never played well for me, though, I liked Crystal's freak out at the end when he thought Devito had stolen his book idea. Anne Ramsey, though, marvelous.
posted by Atreides at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think this was a great pairing, more enjoyable than the Running Scared (Crystal) or anything DeVito did in his "Ruthless People" phase. I still haven't seen Strangers on a Train!
posted by rhizome at 11:06 PM on January 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shout out to MF'ing Bruce Kirby, too.
posted by rhizome at 11:18 PM on January 8, 2018

oh. I saw this long ago and thought it was the least funny comedy imaginable. I laughed exactly one time. It's when I realised that a movie could have the best--actors/director/script--and still be a dud. Well, this and the Ralph Fiennes version of Wuthering Heights.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:49 AM on January 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Any time hear the name Owen! I think of this movie.
posted by ian1977 at 4:09 AM on January 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I may do a rewatch of this myself, given Kate Mulgrew's presence. And Momma coming up with the right word--and Billy Crystal's reaction--had me howling in the theater when I first saw this.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:02 AM on January 9, 2018


Crystal's tender reaction to De Vito's creation " It's a pop-up book!"
posted by brujita at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2018


Best line in the movie.
posted by hoodrich at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's been many years, but one line of Roger Ebert's review has stuck with me all this time: "Blocked writers ... work on computers, not typewriters, and when they're blocked they play computer games like 'Leather Goddesses of Phobos.'" :D

I really did not like this movie, but man, oh man Anne Ramsey was born to play Momma. She was terrifying in The Goonies and just plain evil here.
posted by zarq at 12:43 PM on January 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

oh. I saw this long ago and thought it was the least funny comedy imaginable. I laughed exactly one time.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2018

That's an extremely tall claim.
posted by rhizome at 10:25 AM on January 10, 2018

"Dive, DIVE!" said the captain through the thing. And the man who makes it dive pressed a button or something, and it dove. And the enemy was foiled again!

"Looks like we foiled them again!" said Dave.

"Yeah, we foiled those bastards again, didn't we Dave?"

"Yeah!" said Dave.

The End.

- Me, whenever my mom asks me to perform that terrible submarine story that she loved from the writing class scene in Throw Momma From The Train
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

I found it to be very funny then and now. It's a pairing of two fairly stunted characters, with sometimes dry and dark humor, and some slapstick thrown in. I think it stuck out from other comedies of its time because of its odd sympathies it plays on its characters. DeVito isn't the nasty over the top scumbag he did so well on Taxi and Romancing The Stone. He comes across as a rather sweet and simple man, despite being so desperate to be out from under his mother's grasp, to the point of murder. And he's quite touching when he shows off his coin collection, seemingly very juvenile and of dubious worth, until he reveals the value the particular coins have to him. Crystal is the more conventional comic performance, a person of normal intelligence and capability (as opposed DeVito's character), seriously fucked in the head by everyone/everything he perceives to be against him. Self sabotaging, unable to get over life, a loser who can't find success with his calling, nor reward teaching a bunch of talent-less and/or gross adults at community college. I found it entertaining to see him twist in the wind over and over, even when he's being rational and moral. And then there's Anne Ramsey's unmatchable and scene stealing performance. The movie couldn't work without her as Momma. Mulgrew's part is small and one dimensional, which is all it really needs to be, but entertaining in her nastiness. Kim Greist seemed under utilized as Crystal's romantic interest who can't outshine his vengeful obsession with his ex. Rob Reiner's bit part fits in well. And Branford Marsalis seems kind of oddly placed, though being oddly placed does seem to keep his character from fading into the background.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:46 PM on January 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

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