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Monday, January 14, 2013

The Money Pit

With a new year comes a time of change. Getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. Some people may decide to change their looks for the new year, dying their hair several shades lighter, and splurging on a brand new wardrobe. Some people may decide to “pimp their rides”, and spruce up their cars with fancy hubcaps, or a new set of fuzzy dice.

And, some people decide to tackle home improvement projects.

A few days ago, I opened up a bit about my childhood growing up in houses that were...well...kind of beat up, run down, fixer uppers. If you missed that entry, no problem. Just click HERE if you like. Anyway, as part of living in a series of homes that required a lot of maintenance, my father got the chance to flex his skills. Mind you, no matter how hard he tried, he wasn't able to repair the leaky roof in any of the houses we lived in during my childhood. But if you needed a fuse changed, a hole repaired in the drywall, installing a ceiling fan or wall sconce, building a bookshelf, and finding a way to keep a real Christmas tree upright for two weeks without killing it, my father was the man to call on.

Seriously, he built me my very first bookshelf to store all of my books. What a father, huh?

Of course, with every home improvement project success story comes a whole slew of failures and missteps that can drive even the most sanest of men to launch a slew of curse words that would have made even George Carlin blush!

Needless to say, my father knew a lot more swear words than that when things didn't go the way that he wanted them to.

(Sigh...I love the "Ugly House Photos" website...)

I remember one time, he tried to put up wallpaper in the living room, and he never could quite get the consistency of the paste quite right. He did get the job done...after four attempts and about eighteen thousand cuss words.

Then there was the time that he tried to hang up a set of venetian blinds in a bedroom, and he ended up cursing even more when he got himself tangled up in them. Needless to say, my parents have never used blinds since.

And, then there was the plumbing mishap that ended up with my father almost slicing one of his fingers completely off his hand! Thankfully, my eldest sister is trained as a registered nurse, and was able to help save the finger. But, my father was cursing up a blue streak that day!

But, I suppose that's part and parcel of home improvement projects. No pain, no gain.

In our family's case, we never owned the homes that I lived in, so if any damage took place that was cosmetic in nature, it was like “big deal, it's not our house”.

(Well, okay, it wasn't quite like that...but we didn't stress out about it either.)

Now, if my parents had inherited a real fixer-upper and had everything signed in their name, I think that their attitude would have been different. Had it been their own home, I bet they would have worked twice as hard to make their house shine, as I'm sure most homeowners can attest to.

I mean, let's face it. Buying a home is a HUGE investment. I currently do not have my own home yet, but when the time comes that I do, I want to make sure that my investment is a good one. I don't want to pay $200,000 for a house that appears to look lovely on the outside, only to end up forking out half a million dollars to fix up the inside. That wouldn't be a very good investment.

(In fact, I'll be honest. If the time comes that I ever get the opportunity to buy my own home, I will be bringing people along with me to help me decide, because I tend to get quite indecisive when it comes to huge purchases.)

Today's movie happens to be one which stars a young couple looking at purchasing their own home, unaware of the work that needed to be done inside. As if the appalling conditions inside the home aren't bad enough, a sub-plot that takes place within the movie may threaten the unity of the couple forever!

All because they ended up with a money pit nightmare instead of a dream home.

Well, what a coincidence! The title of the movie we're discussing today also happens to be called “The Money Pit”!

Directed by Richard Benjamin, the movie was released on March 26, 1986, and starred Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as Walter Fielding Jr. and Anna Crowley, the couple who end up with the “money pit”.

The first time I saw this movie was on one of those Saturday night midnight movies. You know the movies I mean, right? The ones that usually don't do very well at the box office and are often shown as filler. Well, admittedly, looking at the records for the movie, it only made about $55 million on a budget of $10 million. So, yes, it did make a profit, and it was a decent movie...but it wasn't exactly embraced lovingly by movie was more along the lines of one of those blind dates that you have great expectations for only to find out that the date is hardly your type.

Still, anyone who has ever struggled with the idea of putting on a tool belt and sprucing up things that need improving in a home can probably relate to the main plot. It's just a shame that the events leading up to the main plot are very contrived and unbelievable.

The movie begins with Walter and Anna discovering that their apartment is being taken over by someone else. Turns out that they don't actually own their New York City based apartment at actually belongs to a man named Max Beissart (the late Alexander Godunov), a conductor who has just returned from a tour on Europe, and wishes to move back into his apartment again...the one he used to share with Anna when they were married!

Needless to say, this awkward situation has forced Walter and Anna to find a new home, and quickly. As it happens, fate (and a real estate agent friend) drops both of them in the company of Estelle (Maureen Stapleton), who has a mansion that she has to sell quickly. Seems her husband Carlos is in a lot of trouble. He's been arrested by the Israelis, having been accused of being Hitler's pool boy (like I said, contrived plot opening), and she must sell the house in order to bring him back home to America.

Now, the average person probably wouldn't believe this absolute farce of a story. Luckily, our two main characters are two of the dumbest people on the entire planet, with Anna believing that the story of them buying their dream home in order to help two other people is romantic.

Of course, the home is listed at a million dollars, so Anna and Walter agree to split the cost. Walter manages to pony up his share of the money from his wealthiest client, a kid rock star named Benny. Anna ends up getting her half from her ex-husband, Max, when she sells him back everything that she got in their divorce settlement.

So, with the house bought, and Walter and Anna happier than they have ever been, it's going to be smooth sailing, right?

Well...not exactly. Part of the reason why the sale was so quick was because the mansion was sold as is. And, unknown to Walter and Anna, the house has its share of problems, such as this...

...and this...

...and, of course, this memorable scene.

Now, I've heard of fixer-uppers before, but when you have brown sludge coming out of the water pipes, wildlife living in your dumbwaiter, an unintentionally collapsing staircase, and an oven that sends your dinner flying at the speed of sound, it doesn't exactly provide a nice, warm, cozy feeling.

And, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

When contractors Art and Brad Shirk (Joe Mantegna and Carmine Caridi) are called in to fix the house, the couple is told that it would take approximately two weeks. Instead, it takes almost four months to get the work done. With moments like this one, can you see why this is?

With the repair work taking much longer than Anna and Walter thought, and the funds dwindling down, Anna gets desperate and tries to sell some artwork to Max, who refuses to take it. He will give her the money if she allows him to take her out, and when she accepts, she finds herself in a precarious position that Max has orchestrated...a position that not only threatens the future of the house, but the future of her relationship with Walter.

So, will the holes in the walls be patched over? Will the repairs to the house finally make it worth the money spent on it? And, will there be a happily ever after at the end of the movie?

Hey, you expect me to tell you? Watch it for yourself!

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