Billy Crystal Is Willing to Risk Ruining His Darkest Movie
Billy Crystal is a mensch. Even in When Harry Met Sally, in which he plays supposedly a-hole romantic partner Harry Burns, you don’t believe for a second that he’s a bad guy. A womanizer? Please. He’s yearning for a partner like Sally Albright and it’s dumbfounding that the film takes 96 whole minutes to hook them up. Crystal is a funny guy but one thing he’s not is dark.
Except for that one time. In Danny DeVito’s directorial debut Throw Momma From The Train, Crystal finds some menace as Larry Donner, a would-be novelist who has it in for his ex-wife. DeVito plays timid Owen Lift, one of Donner’s writing students who devises a murder pact based on Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. It’s a movie in which we actually believe Crystal is a would-be murderer (times three), a nice career change for a guy who only seemed to care if we really, really liked him.
So what are we supposed to make of the news that Crystal and DeVito are conspiring on a sequel? DeVito said in a recent interview with GQ that "Billy and I want to work together again. We were looking at possibly doing Throw Papa From the Train." Entertainment Weekly confirmed the project with Crystal’s camp — it’s for real. We have a few reservations about a return ticket, however.
Um, Guys, Momma’s Dead
The intolerable Momma character, played by Oscar nominee Anne Ramsey, died in the first film of natural causes. (Crystal didn’t go that dark.) There was no talk of a Papa the first time around — how big of a stretch will it be to introduce a new character so despicable that a) he’s worthy of being murdered yet b) wasn’t worth mentioning the first time around?
1987 Is a Long Time Ago
When Harry Met Sally has lived on via constant reruns on basic cable and streaming services. But even City Slickers, Crystal’s most successful comedy, is mostly unknown to millennials and Gen Z. Does anyone under the age of 40 remember a movie called Throw Momma From the Train? Maybe there’s a great dark comedy to be made here — DeVito has certainly grown as a director since 1987 — but it won’t have a built-in audience outside of nostalgic Boomers.
Are Either of These Guys Capable of Throwing Anyone from a Train?
Elderly Momma was played by Ramsey at the age of 58. She was some spring chicken compared to current-day Crystal (age 75) and DeVito (age 78). Unless Papa is pushing 100, it’s unlikely either guy is credibly throwing him from a train without some assistance from a hired goon. Maybe Crystal is playing the titular Papa? It’s not a bad idea — and killing the lovable Crystal in a feature comedy might be the one way to make Throw Papa his darkest movie yet.