Throw Momma from the Train (1987) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
76 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A fun black comedy/thriller
eddy-2820 June 2004
Throw Momma from the Train, could best be described as a newer version of Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train". Stu Sliver's script was creative and very darkly comic.

Danny DeVito stars (and also directs) as Owen, a sort of dim-witted writing student who lives with his monstrous mother (Anne Ramsey). Owen's writing teacher, Larry (Billy Crystal) is having trouble with his writing career because his wife (Kate Mulgrew) stole his first book and made it her own bestseller and lives the highlife in Hawaii. After Owen constantly annoys Larry for days about his first story, he wrote from class, Larry suggests that Owen see a Hitchcock movie in order to write the perfect murder mystery novel. Owen then gets the idea from "Strangers on a Train" that he will go to Hawaii and murder Larry's wife, while Larry will kill his mother. But Larry has the motive, and with the police coming after him, Larry now has the opportunity to kill off the meanest old lady, he's ever seen, but realizes that she is harder to get rid of than both he and Owen thought.

Throw Momma from the Train, I think is a fun comic adventure, both Danny DeVito and Bill Crystal are funny, while Anne Ramsey's Oscar-nominated role of Momma is hysterically frightening. There are a lot of laughs in this film, especially the classic "One Hundred Girls I'd Like to Fork" story. Kim Griest, Annie Ross and Bruce Kirby also star, with Rob Reiner, Oprah Winfrey and Danny DeVito's own father in law, Philip Perlman make cameos. This is a good example of classic black comedy.
24 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A writer writes - well, he tries to, anyway
blanche-225 March 2006
Billy Crystal is Larry, a writer who hasn't written and is suspected of murder in "Throw Momma from the Train," costarring Danny Devito and Anne Ramsey. The phrase "black comedy" was invented for this insanity, which is a take-off on Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." In fact, Owen (Devito) gets the idea of having Larry kill his mother in exchange for Owen killing Larry's ex from watching that famous film. "I saw the movie. Criss-cross," Owen tells Larry. Not that Larry knows what he's talking about until it appears it's too late - just like "Strangers." Larry, a writing teacher, claims that his ex-wife, played by Kate Mulgrew, stole his book and put her name on it. She has become a big celebrity, appearing on "Oprah," where she refers to Larry as "a beast." Owen is in Larry's class. He lives with an abusive Neanderthal mother (Ramsey) and has visions of poisoning her, sticking a scissors in her head - you name it. It's not long after seeing "Strangers on a Train" that he's in Honolulu, stalking Larry's wife. While she's leaning over a boat railing trying to get an earring, Owen stands behind her and creeps up...Soon the police are looking for Larry to question him, but he's at Owen's where he's being encouraged to live up to his end of a bargain he had no idea he made. You know, "criss-cross." There are several scenes copied from "Strangers," which are hilarious. I especially loved Larry's confession to the sleeping Mrs. Lift, Owen's mother, similar to when Guy thinks he's talking to Bruno's stepfather.

Crystal and DeVito are complete masters of comic dialogue and timing and will leave you laughing, often out loud. Ramsey is repulsively funny - a totally "out there" performance. Kim Griest and Rob Reiner also have roles - Griest is Crystal's girlfriend, and Reiner has what amounts to a cameo.

The ending is very clever, and the whole film will leave you laughing.
26 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A Writer's Comedy
slokes28 May 2004
Owen loves his Mamma...only he'd love her better six feet under in this dark, laugh-out-loud comedy that both stars and is directed by Danny DeVito, with admirable assists from Billy Crystal and Anne Ramsey in the title role.

"Throw Momma From The Train" is a terrific comedy, even if it isn't a great film. It's too shallow in parts, and the ending feels less organic than tacked on. But it's a gut-splitting ride most of the way, with Crystal and DeVito employing great screen chemistry while working their own separate comic takes on the essence of being a struggling writer (DeVito is avid but untalented; Crystal is blocked and bitter).

Crystal's Professor Donner believes his ex-wife stole his book (the unfortunately titled "Hot Fire") and can't write more than the opening line of his next book, which doesn't come easy. He teaches a creative writing class of budding mediocrities, including a middle-aged woman who writes Tom Clancy-type fiction but doesn't know what that thing is the submarine captain speaks through; and an upholstery salesman who wants to write the story of his life. Mr. Pinsky is probably the funniest character for laughs-per-minutes-on-screen, an ascot-wearing weirdo who sees literature as an excuse to write his opus: "100 Girls I'd Like To Pork."

Then there's DeVito's Owen Lift, who calls himself Professor Donner's "star pupil" even though the teacher won't read his work in class. Owen is a somewhat unusual character to star in a movie, a man-child in his late 30s who lives with his overbearing mother, Anne Ramsey, who calls him "lardass" and other endearing sentiments. In any other movie, we'd be asked to feel sorry for Owen, but "Throw Momma From The Train" piles life's cruelties onto this sad sack for laughs and expects us to go along. That's one big reason why this film probably loses a lot of people.

For those of us who enjoy the humor of this character, even identifying with him, and take the rest of what we see here as a lark, it's not as big a stretch to go along with the bigger gambit this comedy takes, asking us to watch in amusement while Owen enlists Professor Donner's help in a plan to kill his mother. Actually, he first goes to Hawaii to kill Donner's hated ex, then tells the professor it's his turn to kill Mrs. Lift, "swapping murders" as seen in Hitchcock's "Strangers On A Train."

As a director, DeVito not only complements his actors' performances with scene-setting that places the accent on dialogue, he makes some bold visual statements, throwing in bits of amusing unreality to keep the audience on its toes (and away from taking things too seriously.)

Also helping matters is writer Stu Silver, who keeps the laughs coming with his quotable patter. "You got rats the size of Oldsmobiles here." "She's not a woman...She's the Terminator." "One little murder and I'm Jack the Ripper." Those are all Crystal's words, but some of the funniest lines, which work only in context but absolutely kill, are DeVito's and Ramsey's. Apparently Silver never wrote another screenplay after this, according to the IMDb, and that's a shame, because he had real talent for it.

The best scene in this movie, when Crystal meets Ramsey, was actually used in its entirety as a theatrical 'coming attraction' presentation, the only time I've seen a movie promoted that way. Owen introduces the professor to his mother as 'Cousin Patty,' and when Momma says he doesn't have a Cousin Patty, panicky Owen loses it. 'You lied to me,' he yells out, slamming the professor's forehead with a pan.

Of course, in reality the professor wouldn't groan out something witty from the floor, but 'Throw Momma From The Train' works effectively at such moments, when playing its Looney Tunes vibe for all its worth. DeVito hasn't disappeared from films, of course, but it's a mystery why he hasn't really followed up on the directorial promise of this movie. Maybe it's because, as 'Throw Momma From The Train's lack of mainstream success shows, his kind of vision isn't to everyone's tastes. That's too bad for those of us who can watch this over and over, and like it.
32 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Overlooked black comedy.
TOMASBBloodhound3 June 2008
Black comedy isn't always an easy sell. Every now and then you get a black comedy that is hugely successful, like Fargo, for example. But usually they don't often find big audiences. People seem to either set their minds for intellectual comedy, or for serious mayhem. There doesn't seem to be a big market for a good mixture of both. Throw Momma From the Train was a fairly decent hit, yet few people seem to remember much about it in this day and age. Danny DeVito just about hit this one all the way out of the park back in 1987.

DeVito plays an odd mamma's boy named Owen looking to rid himself of his outrageously overbearing and unpleasant mother whom he still lives with. The mother is played by Anne Ramsey, who passed away shortly after this was released, and she is quite a caricature. She is loud, ugly, rude, and overbearing. Though Owen hardly seems like he could take care of himself, he wants desperately to have his mother offed. He fantasizes about it in some truly weird scenes, but he clearly doesn't have the guts to actually do it himself. That's where Billy Crystal comes in. Crystal plays Larry Donner, Owen's creative writing teacher at a nearby community college. Larry is a paranoid would-be intellectual novelist who claims his ex-wife stole his novel and made millions off it. He is currently trying to write a new one, but cannot even come up with a decent first sentence. "The night was...." Owen hears Larry wish his ex-wife were dead during an outburst at the school cafeteria. And borrowing the idea from Strangers on a Train, Owen decides to travel to Hawai'i and murder Larry's ex-wife. Once it appears he has done so, he expects Larry to return the favor and kill his mother. The resulting action is often quite funny, and even poignant. It's certainly never dull and often full of surprises.

The acting is exceptional, even if Ramsey was a bit over the top. Crystal is as good as he can be, and DeVito has always been undervalued as a performer. The film relies on quite a bit of physical comedy which usually works, often painfully so. The film makes use of some truly innovative editing techniques in some scenes, and the off-beat tone is truly refreshing. I have often been critical of the late 1980s as being a time of artistic malaise and down right lazy film-making. Throw Momma From the Train takes chances. Both in how its characters are drawn as well as its general plot. How many comedies revolve around a son having his mother murdered? The film isn't too long, and it is chock full of laughs. Writers are apt to find it more interesting than the general public, but it can still be enjoyed by just about anyone. 9 of 10 stars.

The Hound.
26 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Motives, Alibis and Crisscross
claudio_carvalho26 December 2009
The college teacher Larry Donner (Billy Cristal) is a blocked writer since his former wife Margareth (Kate Mulgrew) ruined him, stealing his novel that became a best-seller. He does not hide his hatred for Margareth, upsetting his girlfriend Beth Ryan (Kim Greist), who is an anthropologist teacher in the same college. While giving classes of Creative Writing, he is stalked by the student Owen (Danny DeVito) that wants to know his opinion about his crime tale. Larry tells that he did not like it, and explains that in every mystery tale, the murderer should eliminate the motive and establish an alibi, otherwise he would get caught. Further, Larry suggests Owen to watch Hitchcock's movies to understand the structure of a suspenseful story. Owen, who wants to kill his detestable mother (Anne Ramsey), watches "Strangers on a Train" and misunderstands Larry's advice, believing that his teacher wants to swap murders to eliminate the motive. Owen travels to Hawaii and while in a ship, Margareth falls overboard vanishing in the sea and is considered dead. However, Larry does not have an alibi and becomes the prime suspect, while the deranged Owen presses him to kill his mother as part of their supposed deal.

"Throw Momma from the Train" is one of the funniest comedies of the 80's and a great tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. The direct reference is "Strangers on a Train", but there are jokes with "Vertigo" (with the spinning camera), "Family Plot" (with the car without breaks) and other movies. The lines are excellent and there is an interesting point when Larry tells that every great romance or mystery has a train. Anne Ramsey is amazing in the role of a nasty and abusive dominating mother and the viewer will certainly feel sorrow and understand the insanity of Owen. Kim Greist is very beautiful and Kate Mulgrew is the perfect bitch. Billy Cristal performs an obsessed character with many silly and unreasonable attitudes but necessary to the plot. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Jogue a Mamãe do Trem" ("Throw Momma from the Train")
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
"You Don't have a cousin Patty." "You lied to me!" "BONG!"
Skywalker0216 July 2001
For those that recall those lines, you also know how entertaining this film was.

What happens when you take Hitchcock style suspense and paranoia and mix it in with traditional ,theatrical style comedy. You get "Throw Mamma From the train.

This is the story about two guys with the same problem.

Larry Donner (played by Billy Crystal) is suffering from severe writters' block, brought on by the success of the novel that his Ex-wife (Make Milgrew) stole from him.

Owen Lift (played by Danny DeVito) is suffering from the ability to write because of his nasty, demanding, over-bearing mother (played by Ann Ramsey).

Larry, who is Owens' creative writing teacher, tries to advise him on the the fundamentals on writing a good murder novel. His one tactic is for Owen to see a Hitchcock film and understand the importance of motive and alibi. Owen takes the advise the wrong way and thinks that Larry wants him to participate in a criss-cross murder plot for the other. And the mayham begins.

Billy Crystral does some of his best work in this film as he goes through a rollercoaster of emotions from all the madness he endures.

Danny DeVito comes through, not only as the simpathetic Owen (who is quite distant from his popular Louie DePalma persona) but also as director. DeVito uses not only his keen understanding of comedy, but also some clever camera techniques.

Ann Ramsey is the quintessential mother from Hell. She's so mean and nasty that she makes you want to jump in and squeeze the life out of her yourself.

The film is also complimented by the Art Direction of Barry Sonninfeld (director of the Adams Family films) and a memerable musical score by David Newman.

"Throw Mamma From the Train" is slap-stick, suspense filled semi-classic that no fan of these talents should pass up.
17 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Mostly Fun
Bolesroor16 May 2004
Throw Momma From The Train is a good black comedy from Danny DeVito... Billy Crystal is great as Larry, a frustrated writer who wishes his ex-wife were dead. Danny DeVito plays against type as Owen, a childlike psychotic who allows his monster of a mother to run his life. Wouldn't life be simpler is these two could murder the women that make them miserable?

The first two-thirds of the movie are funny, especially the scenes involving Larry's writing class. But somewhere along the way it becomes a frantic nightmare, with Larry fighting for his sanity while a "kooky" musical score blares incessantly on the soundtrack. And the inconsistencies of Owen's character are more than a little distracting.

In the end, though, "Throw Momma From The Train" is an entertaining, original movie with some very funny scenes. It is worth checking out if you can rent it or see it on cable.

GRADE: B-
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Devito's Book
tedg8 February 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Once again we have a film about writing. That's the first recourse for writers, and since Devito is a film writer, the book derives from a Hitchcock film. The mix is rather clever, but the humor is ordinary. What's different here is the mix. As with many book-films, the story on the screen becomes the story in the book, but here we have two books of the same events. One book is serious, the other -- Devito's -- simply comic. The serious book matches up with the Hitchcock film.

This film is Devito's book. A simple popup -- how better to describe the humor of Crystal and Ramsey -- with a happy ending.
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Genius script, great acting, solid direction: The ingredients to a great film.
Pet_Rock19 August 2006
Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) has a crazy life: His wife (Kate Mulgrew) stole his book and left him, he has a new budding romance with a girl named Beth (Kim Greist), he doesn't know how to start his book, and his students of his screen writing class are stranger than most. However, one student (Danny DeVito) is extra strange. He lives with his evil Momma (Anne Ramsey) and he can't get up the courage to kill her. So than he goes to Larry for help, making his life go from normal crazy, to extra crazy!

Stu Silver should have done more! The dialog, the characters, the whole script is near perfect! And Danny DeVito has proved to me he's more than a great actor: he's a great director! His kid's movie Matilda is among my favorite family movies and now this is one of my favorite comedies.

It's a black comedy, most jokes are about murder, but it's damn funny! All of the actors are doing their full potential, whether they're main characters (Billy Crystal) or just one-bit minor characters (Olivia Brown).

If you like comedy (Who doesn't?) than you'll like this! 8/10 stars.
16 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Refreshingly Nasty
evanston_dad20 June 2008
A deliciously nasty black comedy about a middle-aged schlub (Danny DeVito) who wants to bump off his mother and hatches a plan to do so with a bitter divorcée, who wants to bump off HIS ex-wife. The movie is completely unapologetic in its cynicism, and gives us no one to like, but for once that works in the movie's favor rather than as a turn off.

Anne Ramsey, as DeVito's battle axe mom, steals the show in a grotesquely funny performance. Even though she's a horror, you end up rooting for her, because it seems like she could kick both DeVito's and Crystal's asses at the same time with both hands tied behind her back.

Grade: B+
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A forgotten (by me) gem.
SmileysWorld13 August 2014
I recently stumbled across this film again after many years while channel surfing and soon I found myself laughing to beat the band.I had seen it years earlier when it was new.I'm not sure why I steered clear of it in subsequent years.Maybe it's under-rooted disturbing theme of murder.At any rate,I found myself engrossed in this film.Despite being dark around the edges,it really is an entertaining film.Billy Crystal was still in his prime,as was DeVito,and Anne Ramsey was a delight as "Momma"..Now that I have revisited this comedy gem that I had apparently forgotten,I will be looking to put it on the DVD shelf in the near future.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
"Owen Doesn't Have Any Friends, He's Stupid"
bkoganbing7 April 2009
If you had a mother that described you like that, you just might be looking to bump her off yourself. It's how Danny DeVito feels about Anne Ramsey, it's just how to put the plan in action.

And his creative writing class taught by Professor Billy Crystal gives him the idea. That and a viewing of Alfred Hitchcock's classic Strangers On A Train which gives DeVito the idea to switch murders with Crystal who hates his wife, Kate Mulgrew, who not only is cheating him out of an idea for a book he wanted to write, but is also carrying on with hunky Tony Ciccone.

Throw Momma From The Train plays out kind of like Strangers On A Train as DeVito seems to have carried out his end of the murder scheme. But Crystal's having a bit of a problem putting Ramsey down even with Danny's help. That woman might need killing, but she's going to take a lot of it.

The only Academy recognition that Throw Momma From The Train got was an Academy Award nomination for Anne Ramsey for Best Supporting Actress. Ramsey lost to Olympia Dukakis for Moonstruck, but the film turned out to be her finest hour. Ramsey already had the throat cancer that would eventually kill her the following year, but look at the list of credits she managed to amass even after Throw Momma From The Train, she worked right up to the end.

I've seen interviews with both of the stars of Throw Momma From The Train, Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito, and both have gladly conceded that Anne Ramsey's performance as the mother from hell both made the film the success it was and stole it out from under them. Their acknowledgment of Ramsey's talent and performance is the best possible tribute.

If Marion Lorne in Strangers On A Train had been anything like Anne Ramsey here, Farley Granger would gladly have joined Robert Walker in disposing of her. Throw Momma From A Train is one of the best black comedies out there, should not be missed.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
very funny film
kyle_furr11 February 2004
This movie is basically a spoof on Hitchcock's Strangers on a train, which i thought was overrated anyway. The plot has Danny Devito going to see Strangers and then thinking Billy Crystal wants them to swap murders, For Crystal to murder his mother and Devito to murder his wife. Both Devito and Crystal are great and so is Devito's mother. This is Devito's directorial debut and it's better than the war of the roses.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
So funny.
TOMNEL2 March 2006
stars: Danny Devito, Billy Crystal, Anne Ramsey, Kim Griest, Kate Mulgrew, Oprah Winfrey and Rob Reiner.

After college class, teacher Larry (Crystal) wants his ex-wife dead and Owen (Devito) wants his momma (Ramsey) dead. When Larry brings up that he wants his wife dead, Owen knows what he must do for him, in order for a favor in return, for Larry to kill his mother. Devito is absolutely hilarious in this as the brain dead wannabe writer that has daydreams of poisoning his mom and sticking scissors through her head. He has a child like role that makes him seem more of a confused man than a killer. Ramesy was actually nominated for an Academy Award for this because of her wonderful performance as mean old Mrs. Lift. Along with having comedy, the film also has heart. One scene between Devito and Crystal starts off seemingly as a joke, but goes deeper, actually making me slightly sad. Danny Devito directed the film and did a good job getting the dark tone in to his direction. For any fan of comedies I recommend this.

My rating: B plus. 84 mins. PG-13 for Language, Sexuality and Violence.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Dark comedy that is easily carried by the lead three's quirky characters
bob the moo16 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Writing teaching Larry has writers block brought on by hatred due to the fact that his ex-wife stole his book and has gotten rich and famous off it. One of his students Owen longs to be a writer but is browbeaten by his abusive aging mother. Larry is heard wishing his wife dead and later, in a discussion about murder mysteries advises Owen to go and see strangers on a Train. However Owen takes this as a hint from Larry that this should swap murders and thus have no motives. Owen kills Larry's ex, but Larry has no alibi. Using Owen's house as a hideout Larry is pressured to killing Owens mother.

The plot doesn't sound like a comedy and indeed this isn't a rip-roaring laugh at any stage, however it has a great dark comedy underneath and the story is interesting enough to fill a short running time. It stays interesting right up to the end, but really it is the quirky characters that provide the interest and the comedy. Owen is not really as ruthless as he sounds and really just misses his daddy – he's quite a child in fact. Larry has a less sympathetic core, but he is funny anyway.

De Vito does well as Owen – managing to make him lovable without taking away form the setup of wanting his mother dead. He also does a good job with his first outing as director. But Anne Ramsey steals the show as the fiercesome, yet fragile mother of Owen.

Overall it's funny, but in a dark way rather than a straight spoof – if you like the humour associated with Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner then this'll be right up your street.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
The Good & Bad Of ''Throw Momma From The Train'
ccthemovieman-14 February 2007
THE GOOD - Anne Ramsey is a hoot as the brutal old lady whom Danny DeVito wants to "throw off the train." She is truly a unique character. The black humor in here and the classic film references are always fun to hear. The story moves fast with no real lulls, so the hour-and-a-half flies by.

THE BAD - Too much usage of the Lord's name in vain, especially for a comedy. Ramsey says GD at least four times while Crystal and Geiest exclaim way too many OMGs. This also is one of those films that diminishes a bit with multiple viewings. Once the shock of a few things seen in the first viewing is gone, is goes downhill somewhat. However, with all the references, audibly and visually, to Alfred Hitchcock films, it is always fun for a classic film buff to enjoy.
9 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Murder Can Be Hysterical!
fortress1114 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Owen is a little nuts. His mother drove him there. Larry is distraught. His ex-wife stole his award winning manuscript. Owen wants Larry to do a little favor for him… Larry wants his life back. So begins one of the classic comedies of modern times. Excellently done in all aspects with absolutely nothing lacking. If you are a writer… if you have ever been screwed over by a girl… if you had a dominating bitch of a mother… if you love Woody Allen movies… you will LOVE this movie.

The chemistry of this brew that makes it all work is casting, writing, direction, and TALENT! Something sadly lacking from most modern movies. Stu Silver wrote the TV sitcom "Soap" in which Billy Crystal also starred, so Silver's framed sampler-worthy lines are perfect for Crystal as Larry Donner, a writing class professor whose ex-wife has done him dirty. DeVito is perfect for his role as the harried Owen Lift… son of the queen of all bitter controlling mothers. Unlike most movies…there is not one square peg in the cast. Anne Ramsey makes the whole plot believable. It is hard to imagine the movie being so "right" with any other actress.

Silver never forgets the cardinal rule of comedies… you never mix genres for the purity of a perfectly crafted movie. Serious danger does not belong in a comedy. You may take the audience on a roller coaster ride while making them laugh, but you never let the coaster leave the tracks. Everybody gets back safely for another ride in an amusement park… and this is an amusement park ride of "E" ticket quality!
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
"Well at least meet her. Maybe she'd be someone you'd like to kill."
TedMichaelMor16 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Danny DeVito is a national treasure. His film "Throw Momma from the Train" utterly delights me. I feel inadequate to write about this wonderful work. It is superb on many levels. "Did I come at a bad time," Owen asks. No, this film provides a wonderful time.

I accept complaints by critics about the film missing comedic veins or occasions. I do not think that the script is thin as much as parsimonious so that it can exploit the gentle whimsy at the core of the narrative. Owen is really a lovely fellow, with his childlike coin collection and joy at seeing cows. While I might want to know more about his momma, I do not need to know more than the sketch she is for the story. The twist on the coin collection is the counterpoint to the oppressive mother and former wife characters.

As I said, the film is terrific. First, Danny DeVito is a great character actor, comedian, and director. Second, Stu Silver wrote a sufficiently tight if not relentlessly funny script. Third, Anne Ramsey's speech impediment caused by her operation for throat cancer somehow sounds the central tone of the film. Ms. Ramsey is over-the-top but it works. I have no idea why. Third, Billy Crystal is a master comedic actor. He is an underrated player in spite of his success. Fourth, Barry Sonnenfeld, the cinematographer, is one of the most gifted people in cinema today. Fifth, Michael Joblow's excellent editing is faultless. Sixth, David Newman cannot write a bad score. Seventh, all the players, except Ms. Ramsey, play their roles straight. I love the deadpan Kate Mulgrew as she creates someone you want to kill as much as you want to kill the nightmare momma Owen deserves to eliminate. Kim Griest provides the realism that make the narration emotionally grounded.

I admit that sometimes the plot does seem a tad contrived—especially the train ride. I did not quite see why the players were on the train except maybe somehow to make the title seem appropriate. Some of the car scenes might be excessive and beside the point. The repeated joke about the first line of a novel wears thin.

None of that really matters. The film is close to a ten; maybe I underrated it.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
In a world where so little is funny anymore, we need movies like this
kyle-cruse21 October 2009
We're living in sad times today, in which it seems like every comedy movie and TV show is painfully unfunny and inflicted with cheap, crude, or poor humor. Most people don't know what it means to really laugh at a comedy, and these people desperately need to watch "Throw Momma From the Train." I say with little hesitation that this is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, from beginning to end. The comedy is so unpredictable and twisted just enough to make us laugh out loud many times throughout. Don't be fooled by the murder plot. The plot is not serious enough to make us care or worry about what's going to happen. The story involves a young man (Danny DeVito) who wants to get rid of his annoying, grouchy mother (Anne Ramsey, nominated for an Oscar in a role that was completely flawless, in my opinion) and does so by killing off Billy Crystal's wife, whom Crystal wanted dead for stealing his novel. I don't want to spoil the jokes and gags in this film, but all I can say is that you must see this film if you want to laugh. Fast-paced and genuinely, a real treat to comedy lovers, and the type of film you just do not see today.

***1/2 out of ****
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Crystal and DeVito make a good team.
vampeal76 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When I watched this movie when I was a kid I didn't understand the premise of Hitchcock movies, and dark comedy. Now that I'm in my mid 20's it makes a lot more sense.

I think the reason I like this movie so much is that the comedy duo of Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito make for some interesting comedy, both slapstick (the frying pan and car scenes) and verbal (the arguments/conversations over murder and writing).

The story revolves around Larry Donner(Crystal), a struggling writer who has his masterpiece stolen from him by his wife Margaret (played by a surprisingly radiant Kate Mulgrew, aka Capt. Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager).

While he shifts between writer's block and teaching creative writing class, he meets with student Owen Lifts(DeVito), an aspiring writer and overgrown mama's boy who sadly still acts like a kid. He has toy train tracks, need I say more? Think of Failure to Launch, only Matt McConaughey is short, fat, and bald.

Owen is stuck in his own life, with a demanding evil mother(Anne Ramsey) who he can't stand. He seeks Larry's advice on how to get out of it, and when he says to go see a Hitchcock film Owen gets the wrong idea that if he kills Larry's wife, he'll return the favor and kill his mom for him. Hilarity ensues while the two try to deal with each other's problem. Owen goes to extremes to kill Margaret while Larry, who refuses to agree to do his "part of the plan", is driven nuts by Owen's mother.

Throughout the film, Larry and Owen slowly but surely form a bond of friendship that is rare in dark comedy nowadays. One part of the movie I really loved was where Owen shows Larry his coin collection, and lets just say its more a sentimental collection than anything.

The two main stars aside, the late Anne Ramsey is hilarious as Mama, and deadly with that cane of hers. She's a lot more comedic verbally and physically in this as opposed to her role as Mama Fratelli from The Goonies. So she curses like a sailor and belittles her son at every turn, but thats what makes her character so vivid. She makes her character the kind of person you love to hate.

Another treat in this movie is the music of jazz great Brandford Marsalis, who plays Larry's neighbor and friend Lester. There is a great moment in the movie where he plays jazz for Larry, who is depressed and needs some good tunes to relieve the pain. Jazz can do that.

In closing, I wish Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito would do another good movie together, but their kinda getting too old for the game I'm sad to say. This is one of those rare movies where both stars shine in their own subtle ways. DeVito's childish comedy and Crystal's sharp wit made this movie for me. 5 star comedy.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Throw Momma from the Train
jboothmillard20 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film certainly had a catchy title, and when I saw it was directorial debut of actor Danny DeVito (The War of the Roses, Matilda), I was even more intrigued to see it. Basically Larry Donnner (Billy Crystal) is having writer's block, and he is very bitter towards his ex-wife Margaret (Star Trek: Voyager's Kate Mulgrew) who has written a new book, and he is claiming that she stole the story from him. Larry's girlfriend Beth (Kim Greist), fellow teacher, of anthropology, in the school where he does a Creative Writing class, is really worried about him showing his utter hatred for his ex-wife. Owen (Golden Globe nominated Danny DeVito) is a timid student in his class, he has a similar dislike towards his horrible Momma (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Anne Ramsey) who treats him like dirt, and he is inspired by murder stories. He tries often to get advice from Larry on how to write a good murder mystery novel, and his teacher suggests to him seeing a (Sir Alfred) Hitchcock film, in his case he sees Strangers on a Train, and he gains the idea of swapping murders. So one night on a ship Owen supposedly pushes Larry's ex-wife over the side into the water, misunderstanding the advice, and Owen phones Larry telling him about the "criss cross" concept, eliminating the motive, and obviously about killing Momma. Larry realises he does not have an alibi to give the police if they ask him questions about his missing ex-wife, and he is obviously the prime suspect to a possible murder, and Owen is still pressing him to kill his Momma. Larry does eventually get to meet Owen's Momma, and he agrees she clearly has an attitude problem and no manners, but he tries to warn her about his unstable son, to which she of course does not listen and is just completely rude. After so many irritations from Owen and a near miss from the police Larry does come near to breaking point and agree to murder Owen's Momma, but on the train it all turns into chaos and after near killing and then saving Larry ends up in hospital. To his relief though ex-wife Margaret is found, she did not die, and her fall off the ship was an accident, and his experiences have inspired him to write a new novel, "Throw Momma from the Train", a murder mystery inspired from what happened. In the end we see Owen, who lost his Momma to natural causes, and he has written a book himself, called "Momma, Owen, and Owen's Friend Larry", but it is not about murder, it is a children's pop-up book, and he and Larry are friends and do on vacation to Hawaii with Beth. Also starring Rob Reiner as Joel, Oprah Winfrey, Branford Marsalis as Lester, Bruce Kirby as Detective DeBenedetto and Raye Birk as Pinsky. Crystal is good as the stressy and later panicky writer talking to himself and trying to get out of his situations, DeVito is also good as the timid student who gets the wrong end of the stick and has dark thoughts but is a nice guy, and Ramsey does almost steal the show as the monstrously nasty Momma, it is both a funny and a dark film that has an interesting murder mystery concept, but it is also a fitting joke filled tribute to the Master of Suspense, a great black comedy. Very good!
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Momma and Owen and Owen's Friend Larry
utgard1418 June 2016
Very funny comedy version of Strangers on a Train. Billy Crystal plays a teacher named Larry struggling with writer's block after his ex-wife stole his idea and turned it into a successful novel. Danny DeVito is one of Billy's students named Owen, a middle-aged man living with his overbearing mother and daydreaming of killing her. After seeing the aforementioned Alfred Hitchcock movie Strangers on a Train, Owen gets the idea that he and Larry should swap murders. So he takes it upon himself to try and kill Larry's ex.

Up to this point the movie is excellent and paced very well. The scenes of DeVito in Hawaii calling Billy to let him know of his plan, each time from a different payphone with a different backdrop even though the calls take place seconds apart, are hilarious. Then the movie becomes about Billy freaking out and doing his routine for awhile. No offense to Billy, he's good in this really, but when the focus isn't on DeVito the movie just isn't as entertaining. So after a strong start it stalls a little, then the last twenty minutes or so feels a tad rushed. It felt like the climax should have been stretched out a bit more. Still, fun movie with lots of laughs. Both stars are in top form with a fine supporting cast backing them up. Some of the students in Billy's writing class are scene stealers. It should go without saying that Anne Ramsey's performance is probably the film's highlight. Every one of her scenes is terrific. This is definitely a movie you'll want to see if you have any interest in the actors involved or if you liked the Hitchcock film and want to see a movie that pays homage to it in a humorous way.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Geeky Randy's summary
Geeky Randy1 July 2014
Immensely dark comedy for its time, about writer Crystal and student DeVito plotting a criss-cross murder à la STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Because of its smooth parallels to Hitchcock's 1950 class, overlooked motifs and subtle details on story development, THROW MOMMA has since become a fun movie to screen in film study classes. Unfortunately, the film's most colorful character, Momma Lift (Ramsey), is way underused; and while Crystal and DeVito are both fine as the leads, neither deliver a memorable enough performance to justify Ramsey's lack of screen-time. DeVito also directed.

*** (out of four)
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
One of the best dark comedies
SnoopyStyle20 April 2014
Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) is an author suffering from writer's block. He hates his ex-wife Margaret (Kate Mulgrew) who stole his book, and published the best seller as her own. Owen Lift (Danny DeVito) is one of Larry's clueless writing students. He hates his hateful mother (Anne Ramsey). Owen keeps stalking Larry about his writing about murder. When Larry suggests Owen watch Alfred Hitchcock's 'Strangers on a Train', Owen assumes that Larry is saying that he will kill Owen's mother if Owen kills Larry's ex-wife. Then Owen goes to Hawaii to kill Margaret. The problem is that Larry has no alibi, the cops are on his case, and Owen expects Larry to kill his mother.

This is a great dark comedy. Danny DeVito is terrific as the idiot. Billy Crystal is neurotic and angry. They have great chemistry together. Anne Ramsey is the best ugly bully. It's Danny DeVito's big screen directorial debut. He does a good job letting the actors room to work. It is well worth a watch.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
this movie has funny sequences by Devito and Crystal,and crystal's literature class, but the other characters in the film, to be a bore
senor_small17 March 2003
this movie was wonderful, funny comedy with danny devito and billy crystal. i thought it was very funny when Owen kept on following larry to ask him what he thought of his short story in larry's literature class. witch was a very dark story. based from the conversation between larry and owen, it made owen think that larry wanted his wife dead. from establishing a silly plan, and eliminating the motive that larry has for his wife for stealing his book title, and devito being fed up with his mother all of these years being mean to him. i thought it was very funny, when devito went to the movie theatre to see the classic hithcock thriller "strangers on a train", and the scenes lines were being played over and over again to owen about swapping murders criss-cross. criss cross, criss cross over again. then, it was hilarious to see devito call crystal in different phone booths in hawaii. this film was very funny, silly thinking to crystal that his wife was dead, and devito wanting his mom to be dead. it was too silly of a plan. this was a dark comedy with certain scenes to laugh, having a wonderful time to audiences who love devito and crystal. the characters of crystal's ex-wife played by kate mulgrew, was mind grating, and her character was annoying to watch. that also goes for crystal's girlfriend played by kim greist. who i think, is a very bad actress. these actresses make this movie hard to watch. but, other than that, this movieis recommended!
4 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed