Throw Momma from the Train Parent Guide
A dark comedy that provides lots of laughs along with a macabre premise.
Parent Movie Review
Working as a creative writing teacher in a local community college as he struggles to write a novel, Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) realizes that he has a bad case of writer’s block. Ever since when his (now ex-) wife, Margaret (Kate Mulgrew) stole the book he had been working on and published it under her own name, Larry has become increasingly unhinged. Owen Lift (Danny DeVito), one of Larry’s middle-aged students, has his own problems. Owen lives at home with his deranged and overbearing mother (Anne Ramsey), and he fantasizes about killing her. When he hears Larry screaming about his ex-wife, wishing her dead, Owen concocts a plan- to swap murders. If Owen deals with Margaret, and Larry kills his mother, they can each establish an alibi, and without an obvious motive, the police will never catch on…right?
Despite that dark and murderous premise, this is a comedy - and a goofy one at that. A lot of the jokes are slapstick gags, or situationally awkward moments. What this means is that you don’t have to be paying that much attention to have a good time: skipping the odd bit of dialogue here or there isn’t going to ruin your experience, although you would be missing out on Billy Crystal’s hysterical deadpan delivery. Anne Ramsey is the real highlight of the movie. Her unhinged, demanding, and abrasive performance provides the perfect motivation for murder, and the antics that ensue.
This is only the second film directed by Danny DeVito (the first being Matilda), and it shows. I’m not knocking the movie, which is a classic, but it is a little rough around the edges. Some of the jokes are a little too obvious to be properly funny, and the movie as a whole just feels a little childlike. It isn’t, especially because of the subject matter, but that disconnect is a shame, as without it the film could have been even funnier.
By the standards of a modern comedy, Throw Momma from the Train is almost completely innocuous. The language and sexual content are both infrequent and (usually) mild, and the violence is all goofy and played for laughs. Depending on the individual, this is broadly suitable for teenagers and young adults blessed (or cursed) with a dark sense of humor. With its standout performances, over-the-top slapstick, and macabre premise, Throw Momma from the Train has long been a favorite in my family. No, not because we’re all plotting murder (that’s just me), but because it’s such a good time.Directed by Danny DeVito. Starring Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, and Anne Ramsey. Running time: 88 minutes. Theatrical release December 11, 1987. Updated March 30, 2020
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Throw Momma from the Train
Rating & Content Info
Why is Throw Momma from the Train rated PG-13? Throw Momma from the Train is rated PG-13 by the MPAA
Violence: Several individuals have daydream sequences involving murder. Methods shown include poisoning, stabbing with scissors, smothering, and strangling. Individuals are occasionally slapped. An individual falls down a long flight of stairs. An individual falls off a boat.
Sexual Content: Several individuals are shown in sexual situations, although without nudity.
Profanity: There is one use of extreme profanity, six uses of scatological cursing, and perhaps a dozen milder profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An individual is shown pouring what is presumably liquor into a mug of tea. Individuals are infrequently shown smoking tobacco.
Page last updated March 30, 2020
Throw Momma from the Train Parents' Guide
Larry initially dislikes Owen. What changes between them? What does Larry realize about Owen that changes his mind? Is Larry a good friend, not just to Owen, but to anyone else?
In trying to get away with murder, Larry and Owen realize there are other ways to deal with unpleasant people. How do you deal with people you dislike, short of grabbing the nearest ax and going to town?
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Throw Momma from the Train is a comedic adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, which itself was adapted from the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith.
Agatha Christie is the undisputed master of the murder mystery. Some of her best work includes Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Crooked House.
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Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a comedic take on a murder mystery, in a world where real people an animated “Toons” live together.
The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford, features a man on the run from the US government, suspected of the murder of his wife.
In the Heat of the Night, adapted from the novel of the same name, follows African-American detective Virgil Tibbs as he investigates a murder in a small town in the deep South. With the racial tension already in town heightened by the ongoing Civil Rights movement and the murder itself, Tibbs is working not only to find the killer but to keep the town on his side.