Throw Momma from the Train, dir. Danny DeVito, wr. Stu Silver, st. Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, Anne Ramsey
Larry Donner (Crystal) has writers' block. His wife has just left him and half-inched his latest novel which she's passing off as her own - the superbly titled, Oprah-perfect Hot Fire - and now, in the class he teaches, aspiring writer Owen Lift (DeVito) is badgering him, hungry for tips to make him a better storyteller. In frustration, Larry tells Owen to go and watch some Hitchcock in order to witness for himself how things like motive and alibi are conjured by a master craftsman, but in Strangers on a Train, Owen interprets the film's twist as suggestive code from Larry that they both kill each other's source of distress - Owen, Larry's ex-wife, and Larry, Owen's overbearing Mother (Ramsey). These days I guess, Throw Momma from the Train would be labelled a Black Comedy, yet typically for a period in time when genre signposting was a lot more open-pastured, there's a fair amount of genuine schmaltz in there too, of the kind that wouldn't be amiss in the kind of movie you might watch with your family on Christmas Day. There's a genuine fondness for Larry and Owen's relationship though, and the pair prove an engaging and natural double-act in less slapsticky moments. The plot may be thin on the ground and the real laughs sporadic, but kudos to a film that can address matricide, uxoricide, infidelity, and autism, and then make you feel like you're ready to open your presents and sing Joy to the World.