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Film / The Money Pit

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"Here lies Walter Fielding. He bought a house, and it killed him."
Walter Fielding, proposing his own epitaph

A 1986 film comedy directed by Richard Benjamin, co-executive produced by (and presented by) Steven Spielberg, and starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.

Entertainment lawyer Walter Fielding (Hanks) and his violinist girlfriend Anna (Long) are swindled into buying an old house that's falling apart at the seams. As they keep getting further in debt in their efforts to restore the house, the pressure starts taking a toll on the couple.

Basically an '80s answer to Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, this film is part of Tom Hanks's early run of comedies made prior to Philadelphia. It was also one of the reasons Shelley Long quit the cast of Cheers, as she hoped to make a transition to movie stardom.

The Money Pit provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Max. He is better-looking than Walter, is richer, his life has not fallen to pieces (other than losing Anna) and he has a nice job as a famous orchestra conductor.
  • The Alleged House: Buying, living in, and attempting to repair one of these is central to the plot.
  • Analogy Backfire: Walter defends buying the dubiously low-priced mansion by calling it an overlooked bargain and likening it to that short line at the DMV that hardly anyone gets into. Anna notes that she actually did get into that line once, and discovered it was for farm vehicles only.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: Used as part of the swindle's hook: Estelle explains to Walter and Anna that her husband Carlos (who is German but they met in Paraguay) got in legal trouble with Israeli Intelligence because he used to be Hitler's pool boy, so now the house needs to be sold (cheap and quick) because of his deportation.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The letter from Walter's dad at the beginning of the movie has him ask Walter to "say hi to the Cheap Girls for him", which considering that he went to Brazil to dodge a major scam charge implies that he's mocking his victims... only to turn out that one of Walter's clients is a rock group called "the Cheap Girls".
  • Beat: When Anna wakes Walter up to tell him that she slept with Max:
    Anna: [Turns light on] Walter... Walter? Are you awake?
    Walter: [very groggy all through the scene] Mmmyeah, yeah, I'm awake...what is it?
    Anna: I have to talk to you. I can't believe I'm gonna to this, it's so stupid.
    Walter: What is it? Whazzamatter?
    Anna: I lied to you about Max. Apparently I went to his apartment, I... got drunk, I guess I sang a few songs and... apparently I slept with him... I knew I should't be telling you this!
    Walter: No... no, it's okay.
    Anna: ...It only proved to me that I love you! Oh, that sounds stupid too, but it's true. I love you Walter, I love you!
    Walter: I love you... it's okay, everything's okay.
    Anna: You won't hold it against me? You forgive me?
    Walter: Sure... can we talk about this in the morning? I'm so tired...
    Anna: Do we have to talk about it? Can't we put this behind us?
    Walter: Yeah.
    Anna: I love you.
    Walter: I love you.
    (they kiss and turn off the light)
    (lights suddenly on)
    Walter: YOU WHORE!!!!!!
  • "Begone" Bribe: To avoid some regulations. At one point it is more of a "please come" bribe, because the Jerkass permit guy just won't arrive unless Walter offers him some money.
  • Big Fancy House: Eventually, anyway. The whole movie revolves around its renovation.
  • Book Ends: Fielding's dad appears at the beginning of the film to help establish how screwed Walter is (his dad was a powerful attorney until he ran away with the money of several clients) and appears at the end as yet another victim of the fraudulent real estate salesmen that sold Walter his lemon.
  • Burger Fool: Walter catches a ride home with a pizza delivery guy dressed as a stereotypical Italian chef, driving a ludicrous Volkswagen Beetle completely covered in flashing lights and blaring a silly song about pizza from external speakers.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Shirks are very sleazy and their work crew looks like it belongs on a Mad Max film, but they deliver. The really hard part for Walter is getting the money and the permits.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Estelle appears at the beginning and ending of the film scamming people with lemon homes. Her husband Carlos doesn't show up when she's conning Walter but his appearance at the end shows that he's definitely German (or can pass for one convincingly enough for the "in trouble with Israeli Intelligence" part of the earlier swindle).
  • Con Man: Estelle and Carlos (the husband/wife team who stick Walter and Anna with the titular fixer-upper).
  • Drama Queen: Both Anna and Walter, when driven to a breaking point. Leads to a big zig-zag between Ham-to-Ham Combat and Snark-to-Snark Combat in this sequence.
  • Expy: Anna pretty much is Diane from Cheers, with the exact same endearingly pretentious Drama Queen personality that Shelley Long used for the latter character.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The permit guy. What little we see of him suggests that he's a gigantic asshole.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: When Anna and Walter are having their big argument, she's wearing a very form-fitting red dress. The construction workers keep ogling or trying to proposition her!
  • I Lied: It's only after Anna's on the verge of breaking up with Walter for good that Max comes clean about what happened the night she spent at his loft. To that point, he'd been letting her think they'd slept together in a ploy to get back with her:
    "You slept in the bed, and I took the sofa. Sex would have been a miracle."
  • I'll Be Your Best Friend: In a negative fashion, Walter extracts a loan from the 12 year old, super rich, rock star by telling him, "If you don't loan this money, I won't be your friend any more!" He gets the loan.
  • Jerkass:
    • Max, most of the time.
    • Really, every contractor Walter and Anna employ is either a crook, aggressively unlikeable, or both.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Max is an arrogant and smug prick most of the time, but he does have some redeeming traits - he does genuinely care for Anna and wants her to be happy, and he doesn't seem to have any real ill will towards Walter either. In the final scene, he even conducts a symphony orchestra in honor of their wedding.
  • Karma Houdini: The con artists who sold Walter and Anna the titular money pit get away completely scot-free free and continue selling lemons to unsuspecting suckers.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: As the movie begins, Walter’s father is living the high life in Rio de Janeiro, marrying a beautiful woman young enough to be his daughter, after stealing millions of dollars from his clients and leaving his son holding the bag for everything. Come the last scene in the film he and his new wife are buying a gorgeous mansion in South America — from the same two con artists who sold Walter and Anna their lemon.
  • Laughing Mad: Walter tends to do this a lot when under stress.
  • Lonely Rich Kid:
    Fielding: Benny, if you don't loan me that money, I'll...
    Benny: You'll what, huh? You'll what?
    Fielding: ...I'll not like you anymore.
    Benny: [sad tone] ...All right.
  • Love Interest vs. Lust Interest: Anna is engaged to Walter, who genuinely loves her, while her ex-husband Max still occasionally pursues her for his own gratification ("Let's talk about love and sex... actually, forget love, let's just talk about sex.") It's subverted when Max admits he lied about sleeping with Anna while Walter was on a business trip; he makes it clear he actually cares very deeply for her and berates Walter for throwing her away.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Immediately following their vicious, end-of-the-relationship fight over her cheating with Max (that she's unknowingly innocent of), Anna slams the door, then drops her belligerent facade and bursts into horrified Tears of Remorse.
    • Max says this line almost word-for-word when his "affair" with Anna also causes her to quit the orchestra, realizing what he thought was a gambit to win her back has instead driven her away from both Walter and himself.
  • Pair the Spares: Max can be seen making eyes with the female vocalist of a rock band Walter represents at the wedding at the end, and she seems interested in him as well.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Max convinces Walter to make up with Anna by reminding him that, being a more decent man than he, losing her would affect Walter far more than it would a guy like Max. Of course, this only comes after Max sharply Kicked The Dog by tricking Anna into thinking she'd cheated on Walter, in hopes of splitting them up. Max also graciously conducts his orchestra at Walter and Anna's wedding.
    • When the job is finally done, project foreman Curly also leaves Walter and Anna with a bit of parting advice about how despite everything that had gone wrong with it, the house proved to be fixable because it had a good, strong foundation. Both understood exactly what he was getting at, and they decide to patch up their relationship on the spot.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Notice how carefully Estelle avoids all the pratfalls and hazards of the house we're soon to see when giving Anna and Walter the tour.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Anna has Max and Walter.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: The music for the wedding at the end is provided by Max and his orchestra and one of the rock bands Walter represents. The wedding scene, as a result, is an orchestral/rock arrangement of "Ode To Joy".
  • Running Gag:
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: He even celebrates with his staff when Fielding decides to buy the house.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Subverted in the asking price of the house; played straight when they have to pay to repair it.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Hoping to clean the family name, Fielding tries constantly to make up for the money his dad embezzled.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Between Anna and Walter:
    Anna: That is such a dumb idea. Sometimes it amazes me you ever passed the bar.
    Walter: I'm sure it does. You never passed a bar in your life.
    Anna: [death glare] You are so much less attractive when I'm sober.
    Walter: [shrugs] Thank goodness it's not that often.
    Anna: ALRIGHT, THAT'S IT!!
  • So Was X: After Walter's encounter in the kitchen, which ends with a cooked turkey crashing into the bathroom.
    Anna: Well, the turkey's done.
    Walter: So's the kitchen. Actually, it's a little overdone for my tastes, so let's not go there again.
  • Spoiled Brat: Benny.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Carlos, or that's his excuse(!).
  • The Unfair Sex: Played with. While it is revealed Anna didn't actually cheat with Walter, she is unaware at first and convinced out of principle that Walter should forgive her. As she puts herself "He can't forgive me, so I can't forgive him." In the end Walter is convinced to make up with her and a happy ending ensues. The only reason Anna believes Walter should forgive her for sleeping with Max is because Walter spent an entire evening, from sitting down to dinner 'til after going to bed, nagging her over whether anything happened between her and Max, constantly promising that if anything did happen he would be perfectly okay with it, and not blame her or hold her responsible. Anna actually believes him, which is why she expects him to forgive her and sees his subsequent reaction and behavior as him being a hypocrite, which is why she can't forgive him. Still, it's hard to believe Walter would be owed forgiveness on this somewhat spurious liability if the roles were reversed.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Anna wakes up in Max's bed in the third act after a bender and Max tells her that they had sex. In reality he slept in the couch and let her have the bed, and he lied because he's still a bit of a Crazy Jealous Guy at the moment (he confesses once he sees that this has almost demolished Anna's and Walter's relationship shortly after).
  • White-Collar Crime: The reason Fielding's father is abroad. He stole two and a half million dollars from his firm's clients and left Walter with the bill.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Suspiciously similar to the 1948 classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: One of Walter's clients is a rock band that's taken to wearing dresses as their newest angle. They later show up as bridesmaids at his wedding.


Video Example(s):


Walter snaps

Not so much the straw that broke the camel's back as the bucket of water that broke the floor

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / LaughingMad

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