A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in the 1988 comedy Funny Farm, city people move to the country out of the mistaken assumption that the relocation will simplify and improve their lives. Comedy results. The humor is broad and includes a man getting a fish hook lodged in his neck, a boulder crashing into a car, a man driving off the road and breaking his arm, and the dog digging up human skeletal pieces. A man takes to drinking during the day as he struggles to write. Language includes "s--t" and "testicles." Two married people like to "horse around."
What's the story?
In FUNNY FARM, a big-city couple moves to the country for peace, beauty, simplicity, and de-stressing, none of which materialize. Sports writer Andy (Chevy Chase) wants a quiet place to write a novel, and his teacher wife Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith Osborne) is ready to nest and raise a family, but writer's block and other surprises put a strain on the marriage. Gardening reveals a corpse under the front lawn. A drunken postal delivery person torpedoes down the road every day, risking the lives of those who stand in his path. The phone company installs a payphone in the kitchen. The charming tweet of a sparrow grows more irritating by the day as Andy struggles to put words on paper. When Andy misses the deadline his publisher has set for him, he sends off the children's book his wife has written. Elizabeth learns that the publisher loves it and that Andy has claimed he wrote it. She wants a divorce, and the house goes up for sale. Andy and Elizabeth offer to pay the townspeople to act more "normally" (that is, friendlier) in their effort to unload the house. Will they stay or go?
Is it any good?
This movie isn't especially funny unless you love watching Chevy Chase repeat schtick that by 1988 was pretty tired. He falls out of a moving motorboat. He catches a snake and, out of unconvincing fear, wraps his fishing line around himself. From the earliest moments, it feels utterly predictable that Elizabeth will finish her own book and have it accepted by a publisher before the self-satisfied Andy can even finish a first draft, and the fact that Funny Farm's plot actually does go there feels disappointing and cliché-ridden.
Once the pair decide to divorce and sell their place, the final 18-minute sequence comes out of nowhere. Andy and Elizabeth offer to pay the townsfolk to act friendlier. What they really want is for the locals to act like characters out of a Hallmark greeting card, full of neighborly concern, false warmth and coziness, and unearthly Christmas spirit, in order to lure unsuspecting prospective buyers to clinch a deal on the house. This feels strained and stupid. One good scene comes out of this plot twist, in fact -- the only funny moment in the whole movie: The maniac postman (played with fiendish delight by an uncredited Kevin Conway) knocks on the door at a crucial moment and frightens Andy with his unpredictably good behavior. Still, this isn't enough to save this tired comedy; there are far better comedies out there.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why city people might think country living will improve their quality of life. How did Funny Farm turn the initial attractions of the country -- a duck pond, beautiful acreage, the sound of birds -- into a nightmare?
Andy claims credit for his wife's work and, without stopping to have a discussion, she immediately packs a bag and says she's leaving him. Does that seem realistic? Do you think comedies sometimes have strange plot twists in the effort to be funny? What's your favorite kind of comedy?
Have you seen other Chevy Chase movies? How does this one compare?
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