From Footloose to Toy Story to Cheaper by the Dozen, Hollywood has long captured both the comedic and dramatic possibilities of that quintessential love/hate life event: the home move.
Let’s check out eight of the best moving movies and grade them on the useful information they may provide for already-frazzled first-timers.
Tagline: The movie that packs lots of laughs
When New Jersey transit engineer Arlo Pear (Richard Pryor) gets fired, he lands a similar job in a most dissimilar place: Boise, Idaho. Convincing his wife and three kids to head west is not easy, and ultimately involves installing a swear jar to collect cash for obscenities. Relocation further tests his resolve when Arlo hires the world’s worst moving company headed by two ex-cons, and a seemingly normal fellow named Brad (Dana Carvey) to drive his Saab 900 west who later turns out to have multiple personalities.
Grade: B+. Laugh now so you can avoid Arlo’s mistakes.
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
Tagline: This Christmas, the more… the scarier!
Think moving your brood is a chore? Meet Tom and Kate Baker (Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt), a small-town Illinois couple who must figure out a way to move their 12 kids to suburban Chicago safe and sane. Watch for cameos by Hillary Duff and Ashton Kutcher.
Grade: B. The comedic primer for parents on the moving fears of kids.
Coming to America (1988)
Tagline: The Four Funniest Men in America are Eddie Murphy
At age 21, African prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and his loyal servant Sammi (Arsenio Hall) relocate to Queens, New York in search of a romantic royal match to escape the arranged marriage proposed by Akeem’s parents. When the prince falls for the daughter of a fast food restaurateur, he and Sammi take jobs at the joint so Akeem can woo her. But finding love proves a lot easier than fitting into a totally different culture.
Grade: A. Neatly summarizes the funny/scary adjustments of a cultural move.
Toy Story (1995)
Tagline: To infinity and beyond!
Pixar’s first full-length computer-animated film explores how difficult a home move can be for the whole family. A little boy named Andy loves playing in his room with his toys, never suspecting that they come to life when he’s not around. When his favorite toy Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) learns that Andy has received a new action figure named Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen) for his birthday, he gets jealous. But when the feuding toys get wind that a home move is imminent, they work together to make sure they are not left at the curb.
Grade: B. A first home move can be particularly unsettling for kids. Toy Story gives it a happy ending.
Tagline: One kid. One town. One chance.
Teen trauma about first moves is typically twofold: the pain of parting with old friends, and the challenge of making new ones. Somehow, Footloose manages to turn this twin puzzler into a romantic musical when the family of streetwise city boy Ren (Kevin Bacon) moves from Chicago and dumps him into a small Midwestern town that unaccountably has outlawed dancing and rock music.
Grade: A. The perfect pre-move pep talk for tentative teens.
Funny Farm (1984)
Tagline: Chevy Chase finds life in the country isn’t what it’s cracked up to be!
Not surprisingly, adults also worry about how a move will or won’t further their hopes and dreams. In Funny Farm, sportswriter Andy (Chevy Chase) and his wife Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith Osborne) buy a Vermont farm in the hope of using that bucolic quietude to craft novels. But the moving company gets lost with their furniture, then they uncover a dead body buried in the garden. Forget writing in peace, given their weird new mailman and crazy crew of townsfolk.
Grade: C+. Home moves are always filled with surprises. Here’s how to deal with some of them.
Tagline: Fly up to Venezuela
A move late in life comes packed with its own unique challenges, as 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl (voice of Ed Asner) finds when he ties hundreds of balloons to his house and lifts himself on a boyhood mission relocate to Paradise Falls in South America. Plans change dramatically when Carl discovers a young boy stowed away in his now-mobile home. Together, the unlikely pair encounter a talking dog, a large, unusual bird and a very real villain from Carl’s distant past who must be confronted.
Grade: B. A move late in life may prove to be the best chapter yet.
Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)
Tagline: Discover what happens when you go looking for a miracle and a miracle comes looking for you.
Ten-year-old Opal (AnnaSophia Robb) is devastated at losing all her friends and having to start over after moving with her preacher father (Jeff Daniels) to a small Florida town. But while shopping at Winn-Dixie supermarket, hope springs to life in the form of a big dog running loose in the store. Opal quickly claims and names him, convinces her father to let her keep him temporarily, and forms a bond with the lovable hound whose gregarious nature quickly fills her friend void.
Grade: A. The perfectly logical happy ending for worried preteen movers.