Max Dugan Returns is a consistently happy comedic fable which should please romanticists drawn to a teaming of Neil Simon, Marsha Mason and Herbert Ross. Once more, Simon’s pen turns to the problems of parental relationships # especially reunion after long estrangement # but largely leaves aside any heavy emotional involvement or rapid fire comedy.
Struggling to raise a 15-year-old son (Matthew Broderick) on a meagre teacher’s salary, widow Mason maintains a wonderful attitude as her refrigerator breaks, her old car barely runs but gets stolen to boot, and life generally never quite works. Broderick is a good kid who accepts her poor-but-honest morality very well. In addition, there’s a budding romance with Donald Sutherland, an exceptionally intelligent detective who’s investigating the theft of her car.
Out of a dark night, however, returns Max Dugan (Jason Robards), the father who abandoned Mason when she was nine years old. Dying of a heart ailment, Robards is carrying a satchel full of remorse and a suitcase crammed with cash left over from a checkered career in Las Vegas.