Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Houseboat Movie Poster Image
Warm romance classic has realistic kid behavior.
  • NR
  • 1958
  • 110 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.


References to adultery

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Friend drinks too much and behaves badly, jokes about falling off the wagon

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Houseboat is a warm romantic comedy that is exceptionally perceptive and sensitive about the feelings of the children.

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What's the story?

In HOUSEBOAT, diplomat Tom Winston (Cary Grant) returns to Washington, D.C. following the death of his estranged wife. His three children, David, Robert, and Elizabeth, have been staying with his wife's sister, Caroline (Martha Hyer). They are hurt and resentful. He takes them to an outdoor orchestra concert, and Robert wanders off and meets Cinzia (Sophia Loren), the daughter of a visiting conductor. She has also wandered off, in search of adventure and companionship. When she brings Robert back, Tom sees that Robert likes her, and hired her as their housekeeper. When David causes an accident that destroys their home, the family and Cinzia settle in on an old houseboat. It turns out Cinzia can't cook or do laundry, but the children adore her, and Tom warms to her too. But Caroline's marriage is falling apart, and she is in love with Tom. And the children have ideas of their own when it comes to whether they even want a new mother or not.

Is it any good?

This is a warm romantic comedy that is exceptionally perceptive and sensitive about the feelings of the children. It does a nice job of showing that David's truculence and petty theft are due to his feelings of vulnerability and loss.

Houseboat is also a rare movie that deals honestly with the issue of children's reaction to remarriage. Even though they love Cinzia, the children do not like sharing her with Tom, or sharing Tom with her. Children who have been in this situation will be grateful for the opportunity to see that they are not alone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different ways that the three children show that they are hurt and sad in Houseboat. How do each of them show when they are beginning to feel better?

  • What can you tell about Caroline's feelings when she gives the dress to Cinzia?

  • Why does Cinzia tell Angelo the story about the necklace, and why does it make him leave without her?

  • Was Cinzia wrong to leave for the dance when she had promised to go fishing with David?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and comedy

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