Sunday, October 24, 2010

80s Revisited: Three Men and a Baby

Three Men and a Baby (1987)
Directed by Leonard Nimoy; screenplay by James Orr & Jim Cruickshank; produced by Robert W. Cort & Ted Field

It's hard now to believe that those three men were some of the biggest sex symbols of their day. Yes, even the one on the left.

Or, more accurately, the three biggest sex symbols that would work for the money Disney was obviously willing to spend on this movie. Seeing Three Men and a Baby--a massive hit in 1987--for the first time in a decade or two, it's surprising how cheap it is. It doesn't distract from the proceedings, but for a movie that I remember being so big, it's surprisingly small. Two TV actors, the guy from Police Academy (the Friday the 13th of comedy film series, but without the laughs), and about four sets... talk about a return on an investment.

It also helped that the film was a remake of a French movie that had done well in its home country; the filmmakers aren't really taking a lot of chances here. The script is about three successful bachelors--all of them womanizers; again, seeing it as an adult, it's amazing how sleazy these guys really are--whose partying lifestyle is turned upside down when a baby is left on their doorstep. And there's a drug-dealing subplot that turns up, is forgotten about, turns up again, and then is dealt with swiftly; it's really only there because this is 1987 and the plot has to be padded somehow. But even with the drug subplot, the whole thing is lighter than air; it's a trifle, but it's a pleasant one that goes down easy.

The film really skates by on the charm of the three leads--if you're making this movie in 1987, this is exactly the right cast to get to spoof their womanizing images--and the novelty of the situation. Three quintessentially 80s guys become daddies. Nothing more to it, really. It's kind of critic-proof, because the movie doesn't really aim to be anything more than cute and pleasant, and it succeeds at it. It's not groundbreaking, but it's sweet. It's fitting that Touchstone put this out because, really, it's like a Disney movie for... well, not adults, really, but it's like a Disney movie if drugs, sex, and swear words existed in Disney movies. And Leonard Nimoy, coming off of Star Trek IV, was really the perfect guy to direct it, because--like Star Trek IV--it's not complex or complicated, it's a crowd-pleaser.

What else can you say about this movie? I guess saying it's cute but it gives you nothing to discuss is kind of a backhanded compliment, but... well, there you go. In its way, it really is one of the defining movies of the 1980s. But the late 80s weren't exactly a deep reservoir, either.

1 comment:

Nik said...

You remind me of another '80s movie I watched again recently, 'Crocodile Dundee,' and I had much the same experience. The main thing that struck me was how thin the plot was and how nothing much actually happens, there's no real villain and basically it's bloke meets sheila, goes to the US, pulls a knife on a mugger and they fall in love.