A didactic fairy tale for children, “Trading Mom” is an amicable if undistinguished film for the whole family. As a vehicle for Sissy Spacek, who plays four different kinds of mothers, and with the appearance of “My Girl” star Anna Chlumsky, pic will appeal mostly to the very young.
In Tia Brelis’ screen adaptation of her mother’s 1966 novel, “The Mommy Market,” Spacek plays a single, career-oriented mother who seems to be too busy to give her children “quality time.” Unhappy with her inattentiveness, Elizabeth (Chlumsky), Jeremy (Aaron Michael Metchik) and Harry (Asher Metchik) rush to complain to their friend, Mrs. Cavour (Maureen Stapleton).
As a solution to their problem, the strange, white-haired woman prescribes an ancient magic spell that can erase the memory of their biological mother and allow them to shop for the “ideal” one.
Using the structure of a classic fairy tale, “Trading Mom” lets the children select and experience a different kind of mom in each of its three episodes: a selfish, glamorous woman who wants to transform them into decorations; an avid outdoor “scouts” type; and a clownish performer who builds a circus right in the back yard.
Playing all four roles, Spacek is most convincing as the real mother and seems to have fun with embodying the outdoor type.
But she is not particularly good with accents — her portrayal of the French mama and of the Russian circus performer is forced and a bit too actorish.
Technical credits, particularly Cynthia Charette’s production design of the mommy market, will please the eyes of toddlers.
The film’s message that the grass is not always greener on the other side will be joyfully embraced by single working mothers and may encourage youngsters to appreciate what they have — realizing, as Judy Garland did in “The Wizard of Oz,” that “there’s no place like home.”
“Trading Mom” is an enjoyable film that can be watched by parents and children together.