Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cry, Baby: "Three Men and a Cradle" (1986)

This is the French film that was remade as the treacly ubersuccess "Three Men and a Baby." They are both equally good, and for different reasons.

Pierre (Roland Giraud) the architect, Michel (Michel Boujenah) the cartoonist, and Jacques (Andre Dussollier) the air steward all live in the same Paris apartment. Their swinging ways are turned upside down when Jacques' hitherto unknown infant child is left on the doorstep with a note attached from the mother saying she will be in the United States on a modelling shoot for a few months. Jacques is not there, either, as he is in the Far East. He did promise to hold a package for a friend, and Pierre and Michel assume baby Marie is it.

Very similar to the remake, so far. The baby is given to drug dealers, who come looking for the "package" of heroin. The exchange is not made, and the police follow Pierre and Michel, looking for the narcotics. Strangely, halfway through the film, Michel hands off the heroin in a diaper to the dealer, and this plot (which never worked in either film) suddenly ends! No hidden camera, no dressing like a woman, and no eccentric detective. I wondered just what the heck these people were going to do for the rest of the film.

This is where the darkness creeped in. The mother, Sylvia, comes home and takes the baby back. The three bachelors try to get back to their womanizing and drinking, but they are set upon by such an omnipotent depression, I thought I might have to call the mental health hotline. Michel and Jacques do see the baby on occasion, but try not to bond with it. Pierre is down right suicidal, laying in bed with a squeaky toy.

While the first half of the film was not the light fluff of the remake, the second half was so sad and depressing, it gives many foreign films a bad name. The baby is so cute, but all the adults here come off as self centered. A birthday celebration where the shallow guests complain that a child is not "interesting" until it is a toddler was meant to be funny, but is a little painful to watch. In the end, the mother brings the baby back, and the men dance for joy. This was a truly happy scene, and I wish some more happiness had crept into other scenes. I can see why the remake made such a big fuss about the drug dealer subplot, can you imagine Tom Selleck looking like he wanted to die and Steve Guttenberg stalking the model mom from afar?

Women do not come off well at all, being either sexual toys for the men or completely selfish bitches who are only concerned with their own happiness, screw the kid.

"Three Men and a Cradle" was good, but also ripe for the remake. The remake was good, but never should have spawned the excruciatingly awful sequel. (* * * *) out of five stars.