Unlike many "family features" released in 1994, the mediocre TRADING MOM at least maintains a persuasively homey quality that distinguishes it from the plastic prefab kidpics of Hollywood's assembly-line. The prosaic explanation is that this is an independent production, shot off the beaten track in Richmond, Virginia. The sentimental one is that debuting...read more
Unlike many "family features" released in 1994, the mediocre TRADING MOM at least maintains a persuasively homey quality that distinguishes it from the plastic prefab kidpics of Hollywood's assembly-line. The prosaic explanation is that this is an independent production, shot off the
beaten track in Richmond, Virginia. The sentimental one is that debuting filmmaker Tia Brelis adapted material close to her heart: the 1966 storybook "The Mummy Market," penned by her mom, Nancy Brelis.
A modern fable dedicated "to our mothers," TRADING MOM tells the story of Mrs. Martin (Sissy Spacek), who has been the wage-earner for the household ever since her husband skipped out, working multiple jobs and coming home tired and cranky. Daughter Elizabeth (Anna Chlumsky) complains to kindly
old Mrs. Cavour (Maureen Stapleton), who suggests the three Martin kids try a secret spell that will allow them to pick an alternative mother more to their liking. The magic erases the present Mrs. Martin and grants the children entry at the Mommy Market, a colorful street bazaar with mothers of
all varieties on display. Each Martin sibling gets one choice; each of those choices is also played by Sissy Spacek; each goes terribly wrong. Elizabeth selects "Maman," a French aristocrat who brings wealth and luxury, but treats the children like fashion items. Then older brother Jeremy (Aaron
Michael Metchik) opts for "Mom," an outdoorsy adventurer with a fiercely competitive spirit, who soon wearies the youngsters through compulsory camping and nonstop sports. Finally, little Harry (Asher Metchik) uses up his turn with "Natasha," a flashy circus lady who arrives along with a caravan
of rather menacing gypsy performers and tries to convert the unwilling kids into acrobats and targets for the knife-thrower's act. Once they get rid of her, Elizabeth, Jeremy and Harry are out of options, banished from the Mommy Market, and facing life in a orphanage, until Mrs. Cavour helps with
another spell that brings back the original Mrs. Martin, as though nothing had ever happened. Now she's much more appreciated by her offspring.
It's refreshing to see Spacek, an eternally waiflike actress often cast in angst-ridden dramas, cut loose and do broad comic impersonations, although her appearance and approach constantly suggest a real human chameleon even better suited for the roles--Tracey Ullman, chronically under-utilized
by American cinema. Like Ullman, "The Mummy Market" was a British import, and not all its elements translate well across the Atlantic. "Mom" in particular is a takeoff on a Girl Guides scoutmistress, an English cultural stereotype with no clear equivalent in the U.S. Tia Brelis also juices up the
narrative's rather leisurely pace with gratuitous chase scenes, and the picture feels padded at a mere 83 minutes. Oddly, none of the Martin kids ever considers shopping around an obliquely mentioned Daddy Market, even when they face destitution.
For all its flaws, TRADING MOM is exceedingly gentle and sweet-natured; the PG rating defies explanation. Critics were even rougher on it, however, and after a feeble regional theatrical release the feature went to home video. It remains notable as the final screen appearance of massive wrestler
and sometimes actor Andre "Andre the Giant" Roussimoff (THE PRINCESS BRIDE). He died of a heart attack at 46, shortly after filming his small but memorable part as Natasha's hulking knife-thrower.