Movie Details

The "exchange murders" plot gambit, played with utter solemnity in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, is used as the launching pad for raucous laughter in Throw Momma From the Train. Director/star Danny DeVito plays Owen Lift, a middle-aged bachelor, totally dominated by his gorgon mother, played with hilarious ferocity by Anne Ramsey. Billy Crystal co-stars as Larry Donner, a creative-writing professor, saddled with a vituperative, thoroughly despicable ex-wife, Margaret (Kate Mulgrew). Signing up for Larry's writing course, Owen has trouble at first with character development and construction in his stories. Larry recommends that Owen watch a screening of Strangers on a Train, which he considered a model of tight, concise storytelling. Owen is so entranced by the film that he decides to emulate Strangers star Robert Walker. That is, Owen wants Larry to bump off his mother, in exchange for Owen's murder of Margaret. Without being asked, Owen does away with Margaret (or so it seems), then hounds Larry to the point of killing "Momma." This being a comedy, the actual consequences of the swap-murder plot aren't nearly as calamitous as in the Hitchcock film. Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld would apply the "black humor" lessons learned in Throw Momma From the Train for his own directorial debut, The Addams Family (1991). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi