GenreComedy, Family, Fantasy ScreenplayTia Brelis CountryUnited States
Release dateMay 13, 1994 (1994-05-13) Based onThe Mommy Market
by Nancy Brelis WriterNancy Brelis (novel), Tia Brelis (screenplay) CastSissy Spacek (Mrs. Mommy Martin / Mama, Snappy French / Mom, the Nature-Hiker / Natasha, the Circus Performer), Anna Chlumsky (Elizabeth Martin), Aaron Michael Metchik (Jeremy Martin), Asher Metchik (Harry Martin), Merritt Yohnka (Mr. Leeby, the Principal), André the Giant (Circus Giant) Similar moviesInterstellar, Hotel Transylvania 2, Cinderella, The Final Girls, The Prestige, Oz: The Great and Powerful
TaglineNo More Vegtables, No More HomeWork, No More Cleaning up your room...
Trading Mom, also known as The Mommy Market, is a 1994 American fantasy/comedy film written and directed by Tia Brelis, based on her mother Nancy Brelis' homonymous book. It stars Sissy Spacek and Anna Chlumsky, and features the final acting role of André the Giant, who died a year before it was released.
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Elizabeth, Jeremy, and Harry Martin are three children who have had up to here with their nagging mother...a widowed strict workaholic who rarely spends quality time with, or even speaks to, the kids - except to criticize or scold them ever since their father had passed away. Following a disastrous last day of school (Principal Leeby finds Elizabeth holding - but not smoking - a friend's cigarette; he then busts Jeremy for defending Harry against Ricky Turner, the class bully, who gets off scott-free; Leeby also busts Harry, who hasn't done anything wrong, and even schedules a home visit), all three Martin siblings are unfairly grounded for the entire summer vacation with no camp, no allowance, no TV and no anything by their infuriated mother. Then they meet Mrs. Cavour, a mysterious woman who works as a gardener. She tells the children of an ancient spell which will make their mother disappear... along with all the kids' memories of her.
That evening, the siblings recite the incantation...which indeed works overnight. The next morning, however, Principal Leeby shows up at the Martin house. He demands that Mrs. Martin come in for a chat regarding the trouble at school yesterday. When the Martin children (for obvious reasons) cannot explain what has happened to their mom instead making up a story that their mother had left early for an emergency, Leeby becomes suspicious and contacts social worker Dr. Richardson - who threatens to put all three kids in separate foster homes unless their mother is located. So Mrs. Cavour tells the Martin youngsters of a place in town called the Mommy Market, where can be found practically any breed of mother imaginable. Their policy, however, is that every customer (or party of customers) receives three tokens... each of which is good for taking home one mother at a time. If said customer does not find a suitable mother before running out of tokens, that customer can never return again. The Martin children select (in order): a wealthy-but-snappish French woman; an attentive-but-monotonous nature-hiker; and a fun-but-wild circus performer. Each of these moms set various standards, which the Martin kids cannot possibly live up to. Suddenly, Elizabeth and her brothers recognize their mother... who herself has been made available at the Mommy Market.
When they rush in and beg her to come home, chaos ensues and the Martin offspring are ejected from the Market forever. As Principal Leeby had called the police to put the Martin siblings in three separate foster homes since he is unable to contact Mrs. Martin, they seek out Mrs. Cavour, who explains that the spell can be broken and their mom will return - but only if the youngsters collectively recall something about her. They do so and happily bring their mother breakfast in bed. She tries to remember why she grounded them yesterday, but can't. She then tells the kids that Principal Leeby is coming over to visit. The kids are now ready to dismiss everything which happened as a bizarre dream. Outside, Principal Leeby drops by to speak with Mrs. Martin about the problems her children (supposedly) caused at school. He is snared by an animal trap which Mom the Nature-hiker showed Elizabeth how to make.
Sissy Spacek as Mrs. Martin/Mama, the snappy French woman/Mom, the nature-hiker/Natasha, the circus performer
Anna Chlumsky as Elizabeth Martin
Aaron Michael Metchik as Jeremy Martin
Asher Metchik (Aaron's real-life brother) as Harry Martin
Maureen Stapleton as Mrs. Cavour
André the Giant as the Circus Strongman
Merritt Yohnka as Terrance Leeby, the school principal
Sean MacLaughlin as Edward, the Mommy Market's manager
Schuyler Fisk (Sissy's real-life daughter) as Suzy
Anne Shannon Baxter as Lily
Andrew Largen as Ricky Turner, the class bully
Nancy Chlumsky (Anna's real-life mom) as Dr. Richardson, the social worker
Ariana Metchik (Aaron and Asher's real-life sister) as the Girl Scout
Igor De Laurentiis (producer Rafaella's real-life nephew) as the boy in the black jacket
The film mixed to negative reviews; as of June 2016, it holds a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 56% approval audience score. It was mentioned in Siskel and Ebert's "Worst of 1994" episode.
In his TV, Movie & Video Guide, film historian Leonard Maltin gave the film one-and-a-half (out of a possible four) stars. "This should have been a whimsical fantasy/morality lesson; instead, it's flat and lifeless, with poor production values. Although Spacek has a field day in four wildly different variations on a single role, the humiliation scenes will make you wince. There's always something wrong with a picture that sits unreleased for two years, as this one did."