Review: Three Men and a Baby
Architect Tom Selleck, low-rent actor Ted Danson, and cartoonist/puppeteer Steve Guttenberg are three bachelors who live together in an apartment. Danson goes off to Turkey to shoot a TV movie, and one day a baby is delivered at their doorstep. Because Danson was expecting a package to be delivered, Selleck and Guttenberg assume the baby is the package. Danson is definitely the father, but the mother is nowhere to be seen. Completely clueless about what to do with a baby, but nonetheless given little choice, Selleck and Guttenberg are forced to look after the baby. Light comedy ensues, until it turns out that the baby wasn’t really the ‘package’. The package was actually drugs, which Guttenberg unwittingly signed for and completely forgot about. Goons (led by Paul Guilfoyle) turn up to pick up the ‘package’, and this alerts the attention of nosy cop Philip Bosco, who has been tailing the crooks. Eventually Danson returns early from the movie shoot and appears surprised about the contents of both packages. He also tries to get his mother (Celeste Holm) to take care of the baby, thinking she has way more experience. Margaret Colin plays Selleck’s casual girlfriend, and Nancy Travis turns up near the end in a pivotal part.
You really know you’re old when it’s been a quarter of a century since you last watched a particular movie. I remember liking this 1987 comedy from director Leonard Nimoy (the “Star Trek” icon who later directed the dire “Funny About Love”) when I saw it as a kid. Then I moved on with my life and on to other films, not seeing this one again until recently. There’s quite a bit of 80s pop on the soundtrack and the star trio are as 80s as you can get, but it holds up pretty well after all this time. In fact, the only thing that truly grates and dates is the very, very 80s pop score from Marvin Hamlisch (“The Sting”, “The Spy Who Loved Me”). The soundtrack is very 80s pop too, of course, but with the likes of Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine’s hits ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘Conga’ opening the film (and admittedly a couple of wet tunes by Peter Cetera and Simply Red later on) it’s better than the score at least (The only thing worse than the score is the ghastly paint job on the outside of their apartment. How the hell were they even allowed to do that? They don’t own the building!).
The concept of three bachelors being made to look after a baby is pretty irresistible, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the makers of TV’s “Full House” didn’t at least get some inspiration for the show from this slightly similar idea. It’s cliché now, but at the time, it was a really cute idea and even today it manages to mine some good-natured humour here and there. ‘I’m an architect for chrissakes!’ cries Tom Selleck as he tries to convince himself that he’s perfectly capable of working out how to change a nappy. It’s funny because it’s not me. There’s also a funny bit where Selleck reads the baby a bedtime story…a boxing story in a sports magazine. It was a lot fresher in 1987 (What, did you see the French original? I didn’t think so and neither did I) than in 2016, but it’s a nice, cute film for the most part. It may be a bit cliché, but it’s still relatable material that’ll always be somewhat relevant.
The film is pretty perfectly cast, especially the main trio of 80s leading men, with Tom Selleck and probably Steve Guttenberg in their best-ever film (Much as I’ll kinda defend “Police Academy 4: The One With David Spade and Sharon Stone”). I did think, however, that Margaret Colin, Philip Bosco, and Nancy Travis could’ve been given a bit more to do, but Paul Guilfoyle enjoys himself playing a crim. It’s always nice to see veteran Celeste Holm, even in a brief cameo here as Ted Danson’s mother. Nancy Travis is instantly lovely in a small but pivotal role. It’s smart to cast someone so clearly very nice in the role of someone who has done something not terribly admirable but means no harm. As for her English accent, I used to assume she was British when I was a kid. Looking at the film in 2016…yeah, OK I’ll give it a pass…but only a pass. You definitely wish Travis was in a lot more of the film. However, let’s face it, the baby (two of them actually playing the role) steals this damn thing from everybody. Well, OK some of you of the female persuasion and of a certain vintage probably won’t be able to take your eyes off Selleck. Boy was he ever the prototypical early-to-mid 80s hunk if ever there was one. The hair, the moustache, the short shorts. I’m straight but even I can sorta understand what’s going on there I guess.
There’s no doubt that the film fares better in the first half than the second. Yes, it’s nice to have Danson back in the latter stages, but that’s when the film’s crime subplot kicks in, and despite a nice sleazy turn by Paul Guilfoyle it’s really unnecessary stuff. The film really could’ve gotten by on just the three men and the baby. It’s not like enough time is really spent on the criminal subplot to make it anything worthwhile anyway, so I would’ve nixed it completely. There are, however, few joys like hearing the central trio sing ‘Goodnight, Sweetheart Goodnight’, easily the film’s best scene, and it’s in the second half. That’s so cute and it’s the one moment above all that everyone really recalls from the film.
Harmless stuff with good stars, though one of whom is absent for much of the first half. Aside from the music score, this one holds up pretty well. A box-office success, it was never a great film, still isn’t, but it’s very cute and relatable. You’ll like it. You can’t hate it. I’d avoid the deadshit boring sequel, though. Based on “3 Hommes et un Couffin”, the screenplay is by the team of Jim Cruickshank and James Orr (previously the co-writers of “Tough Guys”, and they went on to be the writer-director team behind the Jim Belushi vehicle “Mr. Destiny”).