Lois Alter Mark
May 27, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Trading Mom

Current Status
In Season
Anna Chlumsky, Sissy Spacek
Tia Brelis

We gave it a B-

Kevin McAllister wished his family would disappear, and he found himself home alone, outsmarting bad guys. In Trading Mom (Trimark, PG), when the Martin children wish they could exchange their mother (Sissy Spacek) for one who doesn’t say no or make them clean their rooms, they find themselves crying ”mommy” to a circus performer, an outdoorswoman, and a Joan Crawford clone.

Both movies illustrate the old adage ”Be careful what you wish for-you just might get it.” But while Home Alone celebrated a kid’s ingenuity, Trading Mom takes the side of motherhood. It’s like one of those fables you tell your kids instead of whacking them on the bottom; it entertains them, scares them a little, and teaches them a lesson.

The message here, though, is about as subtle as a spanking. A neighbor who has mysterious powers (Maureen Stapleton) teaches young Elizabeth (Anna Chlumsky), Jeremy (Aaron Michael Metchik), and Harry (Asher Metchik) a magical spell that makes their mother disappear and enables them to go shopping at the Mommy Market, where they are allowed to try out three new moms and pick one. It’s an idea fraught with possibilities, but the ersatz mothers (each played by Spacek) are written as such caricatures that you never believe any of them is maternal material.

Five- to 8-year-olds will get a kick out of the notion of trading in their mother for a baker mom, a ninja mom, a mom who promises presents 365 days a year, or any of the other specialty moms available at the Mommy Market. Older kids will also like the idea, but they may find the story too predictable and will probably be embarrassed by the constant use of the word mommy. Despite its failings, though, Trading Mom is worth seeing for Chlumsky and Spacek’s terrific chemistry, and for the amusing discussions it may provoke as your kids give you a wish list for a perfect mom of their own. B-

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