“Throw Momma from the Train” is a fun and delightfully venal comedy. Very clever and engaging from beginning to end, pic builds on the notion that nearly everyone – at least once in life – has the desire to snuff out a relative or nemesis, even if 99.9% of us let the urge pass without ever acting on it.
Here, it’s the idle death threats of a frustrated writer and flunky junior college professor (Billy Crystal) against his ex-wife that are overheard by one of his dimwitted and very impressionable students (Danny DeVito).
DeVito’s limited creative abilities are further stifled by his crazy, overbearing momma (Anne Ramsey), a nasty, jealous old bag whom he loathes and fears. He seeks out Crystal for help on his writing and instead is told to go see Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, which he does – coming away with a ridiculous scheme on the film’s plot to kill Crystal’s wife and then ask for a like favor in return.
Crystal’s talent as a standup comic comes through as it appears he got away with a fair amount of ad-libbing. His tirades on his ex-wife, a routine he does several times, get funnier with each delivery and are a good counterbalance for DeVito’s equally comical dumb-impish schtick.
If there were to be a first place prize for scene stealing, however, it would to to Ramsey, whose horrible looks and surly demeanor are sick and humorous at the same time.
1987: Nomination: Best Supp. Actress (Anne Ramsey)