Three Men and a Baby

The arrival of Disney+ in the UK turns out to have come at a useful time. Just as people are looking for more things to watch, especially with children, here now is a huge wealth of films, TV shows and short animations both modern and classic. (I recently picked up an interesting book in a charity shop about the history and changing social significance of Mickey Mouse and suddenly I’ve got all the cartoons to go with it.)

Also, we had said we were going to get rid of one of our other subscriptions to pay for Disney+, but actually the money I saved on not catching the train to work for a week paid for the full years membership.

The question when deciding whether to sign up for one of these streaming channels is always whether they’ve got good stuff. In the case of Disney+, of course it has loads of great stuff but you’ve seen a lot of it already. This isn’t a problem though because there is fun to be had in revisiting things you’ve seen before. For my teenage daughters this means rewatching The Wizards of Waverley Place but for me it involves searching through the catalogue of old Disney Touchstone movies. Splash is on there, as are Turner & Hooch, Sister Act, While You Were Sleeping, 10 Things I Hate About You and one I’m a little nervous to go back to, Adventures in Babysitting. Having discovered this rich vein of nostalgia I chose to dig first into 1987’s Three Men and a Baby.

(Of the new material on Disney+ I am enjoying The Mandalorian but really I’m waiting for the Marvel shows.)

I remember liking Three Men and a Baby but on watching it again I realised how much I had forgotten. I hadn’t remembered it was directed by Leonard Nimoy for example, I’d not retained that it had a cameo from Celeste Holme who I adore in All About Eve and High Society and the whole subplot about the package of heroin had completely fallen from my memory as well.

The three things that had stayed with me were:

1. That it was a very nice film about three bachelors who have to care for a baby they find left on their doorstep,

2. that at one point they sing Goodnight Sweetheart by The Platters to get her to sleep,

and 3. that there is a shot of the baby wearing a hard hat on a construction site which for some reason was also seared on my brain.

I am pleased to report that all of these things were all present and correct including the fact that this is still, even through contemporary eyes, a very nice film. There are some parts of the movie surrounding the way these three guys regard women that are thankfully not as okay now as they were thirty years ago. The film opens with a montage of the constant stream of ladies they have going through their beds (which provides a wonderful parade of 80s hairstyles in the same way the opening credits of Footloose does with shoes). This is key to the plot though and their treatment of women is not as problematic as other films of the time, Splash included. There is also something a little odd about none of these three men, at least two of which are around 40, having their own apartment but I guess New York housing costs were high even then.

These slight issues aside though, Three Men and a Baby is a sweet film about parenthood that I am personally able to relate to in a way I couldn’t when it first came out. The confusion over different types of nappies and milk are identifiable as are the scenes of the guys getting peed on. (The story is that the wet patch on Tom Selleck’s shirt and slacks on the poster were genuine but I’m not sure I believe that.) More compelling than this though is the depiction of the way these blokes begin to adjust their activities and their priorities for this new little person in their lives. It is all quite touching and surprisingly believable. They fox the police and foil some drug dealers too but while I can see this aspect is narratively important, I’m not surprised I forgot it. There is a nice play on the race to the airport to stop someone you love leaving trope as well. I mean it’s not Casablanca but you go with it because of the authenticity of what comes before.

It is nice to be reminded of how much screen presence Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Gutenberg had back in the day as well. I’m sure Gutenberg has done recent sitcom work like the other two. I might have to search that out.

The last thing that I saw differently to the time I first watched the film was how mentally fragile and vulnerable the baby’s mother appears to be. I’m not sure if that was deliberate but I’d be interested to see how it plays out in the sequel, which if I remember correctly, she has a much bigger part in. Fortunately Three Men and a Little Lady is on Disney+ too.

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