Three Men and a Baby (1987) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Three Men and a Baby (1987)

In the 80’s some of the biggest stars that were in movies and TV were Tom Selleck (Magnum PI himself), Ted Danson (Cheers was huge, Cousins was not) and inexplicably Steve Gutenberg (was in almost every 80’s comedy made).  You put these 3 guys together in a movie and slap a baby in the story and you have a license to print money, which is what the producers of the film did in 1987 taking the box office crown from the bunny boiling flick, Fatal Attraction. The movie might have been a remake of a French film, but it pretty much writes itself regardless of past incarnations.  Establish the men as swinging bachelors (done without any subtlety with the party scene to open the movie), throw in a baby that cries a lot to rattle the men’s perfect life, sprinkle in potty humor and the guys reacting strongly to dirty diapers and then end the movie on a heartwarming note.  The film is predictable, goes for the easiest joke in the room and is way too sweet, but thanks to the charm of the cast and the fact that babies are just damn cute, the movie is actually enjoyable and is an ok 90 minutes.

I have had a tough time writing an analysis of this movie because the movie is just OK.   It is very hard to find things to talk about because nothing really jumps out either strongly or negatively about the film.  Three Men and a Baby is like getting pizza from Pizza Hut.  Pizza Hut isn’t the greatest pizza in the world and it isn’t the worst, you order pizza from there because you know what you are getting and it is comfortable and familiar.  Yet, if you were asked to write the good and bad things about the restaurant, I bet you would stall out at about 100 words.

It is easy to see why the movie was the biggest thing of 1987 because anyone in marketing knows it is easier to sell anything with a baby or puppy and the cast included 3 men at the prime of their stardom. It is sweet enough and has enough humor that the audiences received exactly what they were hoping for and it became a word of mouth hit, playing huge through the 1987 holiday season. The fact that surprises me was how it didn’t feel that dated.

When I started the 30 Years at the Top series, I looked at the films I would be reviewing and was tentative about a few of the films.  One of the films I didn’t want to watch again was Three Men and a Baby, because I thought it would be dated, too cutesy and badly crafted.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a movie that was not horribly dated because while the music and tons of pastel colors definitely place it in the mid 80’s, the story is one that could be adapted for today.  The movie also gets high marks because of Tom Selleck, who was the best thing in it.  While Ted Danson has a smaller role and Steve Gutenberg was playing Steve Gutenberg, Tom Selleck sells his role beautifully and gives it his all, even if he knew he was in a cheesy comedy.  He is totally believable as a guy who in the beginning is frazzled by the little intruder but learns to love her shortly.  By the end of the film it is Selleck who takes over the movie, even though it is supposed to be an ensemble piece.

The three leads looking thrilled to be on set once again.

Three Men and a Baby has its faults, the drug dealing subplot is one of the dumbest and unneeded pieces of a film that I think I had ever seen and all the women roles were underwritten, yet it is a charming little film.  I have no desire to own the film and watch it often, but it will not pain you to sit through the film like I was expecting.  Understanding how it was the biggest thing around in 1987 is also simple since the movie sells itself easily in just a couple of words you could paste on a trailer or movie poster.  In the end, I would characterize Three Men and a Baby as the film equivalent of fast food.  It is good enough, has enough substance to satisfy and it is built to be enjoyed by the whole population, and yet is nothing to get truly excited about.

Posted by Ryan

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