Trading Mom

Santa Barbara Film Festival 1994–A didactic fairy tale for children, Trading Mom is an amicable, if not distinguished, 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's star Anna Chlumsky, picture will mostly appeal to very young viewers, but much less so to more discriminating adolescents.

In Tia Brelis' screen adaptation of her mother's l966 novel, “The Mommy Market,” Sissy Spacek plays a single, career-oriented mother, who seems to be too busy to give her children “quality time.” Unhappy with her inattentiveness, Elizabeth (Anna 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 consists of three episodes, in each of which the children get to select and experience a different kind of mom: 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 their back yard.

Playing all four roles, Sissy Spacek is most convincing as the real mother and she 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 of the fence, will be joyfully embraced by single working mothers and it may also encourage youngsters to be more appreciative of the life they have in their own home–realizing as Judy Garland did in The Wizard of Oz, that “there's no place like home.”

Though Trading Mom lacks the appeal, charm and look of a great fairy tale like The Secret Garden, it's still an enjoyable experience, a film that can be watched by parents and children together.

Credits

A Trimark Pictures release.
Produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis.
Executive producer, Robert Little.
Directed, written by Tia Brelis.
Screenplay based on Nancy Brelis' novel, “The Mommy Market.”
Camera, Buzz Feitshans IV; editor, Isaac Sehayek; music, David Kitay; production design, Cynthia Charette; set decoration, Lisa Caperton; makeup, Jennifer Bell; assistant director, Patty Chan Morrison.

MPAA Rating: PG.
Running time: 83 minutes.

Cast

Mommy, Mama, Mom, Natasha….Sissy Spacek
Elizabeth……………….Anna Chlumsky
Jeremy…………..Aaron Michael Metchik
Harry…………………..Asher Metchik
Mrs. Cavour………….Maureen Stapleton