Three Men and a Baby, by Albert W. Vogt III

Often films have great little tidbits of trivia attached to them.  Take today’s movie, for example: Three Men and a Baby (1987).  It is little remembered these days, but it had a bit of a buzz around the time of its release, so much so that it got a sequel, 1990’s Three Men and a Little Lady.  There are some interesting things about that one, too, but that is for another review.  As for Three Men and a Baby, whenever you have an infant involved, you can be sure that the title tike will be played by a set of twins (or more, in some cases).  The role of little Mary Bennington was played by Lisa and Michelle Blair.  It makes sense because if one baby gets fussy, the other can step in (so to speak) and do the job.  Further, there are some surprising factoids.  I had not seen this film in nearly thirty years until recently.  As such, the adult me was amazed to find that it was directed by Leonard Nimoy.  If you are not as big a nerd as me, he was the original Spock on the first Star Trek series.  Please do not take my revelation of this information as an indication of a Star Trek fandom.  I will always be a Star Wars man.  Anyway, the insights get weirder.  In the run-up to the sequel’s release, there was a rumor that in the 1987 film you can see a ghost in the background.  As a kid, I remember seeing this covered on local news broadcasts.  It actually took two decades for this to be debunked, turning out to be a cardboard cutout of one of the characters in the background.  If you are interested, look at the curtains in the background of the apartment scenes and you will see it.  Anyway, you might be asking yourself: what does any of this have to do with this review?  Not much.

The title men in Three Men and a Baby are: Peter Mitchell (Tom Selleck), Michael Kellam (Steve Guttenberg), and Jack Holden (Ted Danson).  They live together in a swanky Manhattan apartment pursuing the bachelor life, and they can afford it because they all have white collar jobs.  They throw parties, chase women (and all that entails), and generally have a carefree existence.  Jack is the actor of the trio, and when he books a role that requires him to travel to Turkey for some time, he leaves instructions for the other two.  The missive pertains to an important package for which he is expecting delivery, one that he promised another friend that he would hold onto for a few days before this person picks it up.  It is Peter who finds the “package”: a baby, complete with bassinet, sitting in front of their door.  Being at the station of life that they are, neither himself or Michael have the first clue about infant “maintenance.”  In the midst of the ensuing chaos, the true package is delivered and accepted by Michael, and promptly tossed aside.  While the baby, whom they name Mary, cries incessantly, Peter is off attempting to navigate the bewildering amount of stuff needed to care for an infant.  Between the two of them, they settle into the around the clock attention that this young of a child needs, figuring it all out on the fly.  They are also furious with Jack, believing he had purposely dumped this responsibility on them before absconding from the country.  After a few days, representatives of the “friend” arrive for the package and get a baby, albeit reluctantly by this point, and a can of formula.  Shortly following this exchange, Michael discovers the contents of the real parcel, which is heroin.  He runs out the door immediately, and is able to catch up with the people to which he handed Mary.  Before the drugs could be revealed, a mounted police officer appears, causing the baby to be given to Michael and the drug dealers making off with the formula.  The exchange is suspicious enough to prompt a visit to the apartment by a narcotics officer.  Between him and a rather strained conversation with Jack, who is still in Turkey, they are able to piece together the identity of the so-called friend and his true trade: Paul Milner (John Gould Rubin), drug dealer.  Though they are able to successfully conceal the heroin from Sergeant Melkowitz (Philip Bosco), they are still under suspicion.  Not that this matters as the drug dealers return, tearing through the apartment searching for their supply, bounding and gagging their babysitter Mrs. Hathaway (Cynthia Harris), but leaving Mary untouched with the warning that next time they will take the baby.  It is to this atmosphere that Jack returns.  Once they recover from the shock of recent events, Jack protests that he knew nothing about the baby or the illicit materials.  Given that Jack is the biggest philanderer of them all with his job as an actor, the assumption all along has been that Mary is his biological daughter.  Either way, Jack gets his own crash course in being a parent and soon falls into the routine of feedings and threats from drug dealers.  When Paul is attacked by the same goons that trashed their place, the guys decide to set a trap.  Using one of the buildings that Peter’s architectural firm is currently putting up, they manage to trap the criminals in an elevator.  From there they are essentially hand-delivered to Sergeant Melkowitz.  With the danger now passed, the guys settle into parenthood, until Mary’s birth mother returns one day.  This is a former girlfriend of Jack’s, Sylvia Bennington (Nancy Travis), who had left Mary on Jack’s doorstep when she found she could not handle the child alone.  A feeling of regret brings her back, and the guys, with trepidation, hand over Mary.  Sylvia plans to return to her home in England, but has a change of heart.  Instead, she comes back to the guy’s apartment and they invite her to move in with them.

The comedy in Three Men and a Baby is supposed to relate to the absurdity of a trio of bachelors caring for a baby.  As the old saying goes with child rearing: it takes a village.  That village usually contains what Western society has usually used to look after little ones, a father and mother.  When I apply my Catholic logic to this, I am of two minds.  Traditionally, I know that the broader culture in which we all exist would say that a Christian family demands one mom and one dad.  Further, males and females have their defined roles, and should not deviate from them.  A movie such as this one relies on these ideas in order to produce laughs.  The guys, particularly these ones, raising one baby?!  Hilarity ensues.  Actual Catholic teaching is a little more sobering.  While the Catechism will tell you that dad and mom have their separate duties, it does not mean somehow that filling in when needed is a sin.  The same can be said about being a single dad, or in the case of the movie, a “thringle,” I guess.  I bring this up to say, simply, that the arrangement we see in the movie is not that big of a deal.  As for the so-called humor, it is something that cuts the other way.  It was funny in the 1980s because it appeared counter-cultural or non-traditional.  These days, I think few would bat an eye at the “mixed,” for lack of a better term, family arrangement.  Neither, entirely, would an honest Catholic, with certain exceptions, of course.

There is nothing special about Three Men and a Baby, at least not in 2022.  There is nothing wrong with it, either.  The film made a few hundred million dollars when it was released, so there is another slice of trivia for you.  If you want to watch it for the supposed ghost scene, then knock yourself out, I suppose.  It is available on Disney+, if you are interested.


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