Trading Mom is a 1994 family comedy/fantasy film directed by Tia Brelis, who adapted her mother Nancy's book The Mommy Market.
Mrs. Martin (Sissy Spacek) is the mother of three kids, Elizabeth, Jeremy, and Harry. The kids all complain about their mother. When on the last day of school they get grounded for the whole summer, they take the advice of a gardener who told them about a spell that can make their mom and their memories of her disappear, and they can go to the Mommy Market to get a new mother, only the market is open for one hour a week and each group of children can only have three tokens to pick a mother.
André the Giant makes an appearance as — what else? — a circus strongman.
Provides examples of:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The kids wish for their nagging mom to disappear as well as their memories, but can't find a replacement mother they are truly satisfied with.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': After the kids have used up all three tokens, they set Harry's pet iguana loose in the Mommy Market so they can steal tokens. They not only get caught, but are told that it doesn't matter that they tried to steal tokens, they can never come back. And then when they try to come back, the location has mysteriously vanished.
- Disappeared Dad: In an early scene one of the kids remarks that their mom is probably the reason their father left them.
- Fiction Isn't Fair: While it's reasonable that Jeremy would get sent to the principal's office for pushing down a bully who had pushed down Harry and Elizabeth would get sent to the principal's office for smoking at school, there's no reason Harry should have gone to the principal's office with them.
- Karma Houdini: Although Jeremy does push him down afterwards, the bully who pushed down Harry does not get punished for it. Justified in that the principal doesn't see the bully do this action and the bully tells the principal he was pushed for no reason (while the principal doesn't believe Jeremy when he says the bully pushed his brother down). As the principal takes the main kids (including Harry, who didn't do anything wrong) to his office, he even specifically tells the bully that he's not in trouble.
- Loads and Loads of Roles: Sissy Spacek plays the kids mother as well as each mother they choose at the Mommy Market.
- One-Hour Work Week: The Mommy Market is only open for one hour per week, giving kids very little time to look and decide on a new mother.
- Or Was It a Dream?: At the end, the kids wake up on the first morning of school, only with their mom back in their lives. It appears that they all had a dream... Until their principal shows up and gets caught in a trap set by the camping mom. The knife in the wall, thrown by one of the circus mom's performers, is still there as well.
- Rule of Three: The kids get three tokens for the Mommy Market.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Averted. When the principal becomes suspicious because the three children seem to be living on their own with no mother in sight, he calls child services. This becomes a plot point in the last part of the movie as they try to get their mother back before the authorities can find them.