I first saw this movie on the Disney Channel under the title “Mommy Market,” which is a way more disturbing title. Today, I bring it to you as Trading Mom. It stars Sissy Spacek and my personal hero, Anna Chlumsky (second only to Jenny Lewis). I saw Anna Chlumsky once on the street in the West Village carrying her newborn babe and her eyes were just glittering. That might sound creepy, but my point is that she seems fabulous in real life just like she is on Veep and in My Girl.
This isn’t a critically acclaimed movie, but it did make me feel kind of cool as a kid. It’s one of those kid’s are in charge kind of movies and basically these three brats get to trade in their mom for a new one at a store where you basically just shop for moms. Their next door neighbor is a witch and that’s how they get rid of their mom. (Yeah, yeah I know this movie horrible. It’s only 29% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.) The next morning, they wake up and find their mom’s room empty. They know their mom used to live there but they can’t remember her at all–spooky.
At the Mommy Market, each family gets three choices. When those choices run out, they’re stuck with whomever happened to be their last pick. I didn’t realize it as a kid, but Sissy Spacek actually plays all of the moms in this movie. The first mom is really into fancy things. The kids like her stretch limo and money, but she throws away all of their toys and pets because they’re “dirty.” And she makes them dress up like demented Von Trapp children, so they get rid of her after that.
Their next mom is an avid outdoorswoman (WordPress thinks that isn’t a word but they’re just fine with outdoorsman–offensive!) But she wants to bread the littlest boys iguana so they can taxidermy the extra pets. Then she takes them all on a rigorous backpacking trip through the rain. But the final blow comes when she ruins a backyard game of kickball. The older kids have organized an inclusive way to play with the younger kids (like we’re talking toddler and preschoolers). It’s really pretty sweet. But outdoor mom strikes out a four year-old by throwing balls way faster than she can kick. Then all of the neighborhood kids leave in a huff, and she makes her children do pushups to get them in better shape for competitive kickball. That’s when they send her packing.
Now it’s time for mom number three. The final choice. The most important choice. And this is when they make the worst choice because they two older children are somehow bullied by their six-year old brother. They pick a circus clown to be their mother. What they don’t realize is that she comes with a bus load of circus performers who now also live in their house/backyard area. The only cool part of this is that Andre the Giant is there (may he rest in peace). This mom isn’t so willing to leave (maybe she knows they don’t have another option after her). So the boys steal the bus and all of the circus performers run after it. Then Anna Chlumsky locks them out of the house, but the boys crash the bus and it starts raining. Thus, everyone feels obligated to let the circus people back inside.
The kids are hungry and cranky, and hear their principal (who has tried in vain to meet with their mom for days) banging on their door and talking about foster care. Things are getting serious. So they sneak out the back of the house and ask the witch next door how to get their mother back. They can’t remember her but they figure she couldn’t possibly suck as much as the others because they kept her for so long before they got rid of her.
The witch tells them to name some wildflowers and that will create some kind of potion. They know a surprising number of wildflower names. At this point they have to like break into the market, then find their own mom, and pick her in order to break the spell. The juxtaposition of foster parents in a market for kids and kids in a market for moms is kind of interesting–but hey, I don’t want to give this too much credit. They get caught trying to steal tokens and find their mom and are banished from the Mommy Market, which promptly vanishes like the Garden of Eden.
Then they all cry in an alley. Ugh, this is so dark. How did I watch this as a kid? They can’t remember their mom still, so they decide to invent a memory of her taking them to the beach and all of these other cool places. Okay, this part is really sweet even though it’s schmaltzy. I guess this movie isn’t so bad.
The next morning, they wake up and everything is back to normal. And we’re left to think this was all one big shared hallucination. Except then they find a throw pillow left behind by that weird fancy mom! The end. Oh and Andre the Giant’s throwing knife is still in the wall. And the principal gets caught by a trap that the outdoor mom made. Now, really, the end.
Very Special Lesson: Don’t be a jerk to your mom.