The light-hearted family comedy, Houseboat proves that family friendly films can accomplish to be both endearing and sexy when you have a cast that includes timeless stars that posse those same qualities such as Cary Grant and Sophie Loren.
Cute and sweet, with laughter and tears, Loren’s first American film is a nice little tale of misunderstandings and family struggles. She is the daughter of a touring maestro from Italy who has lived an isolated life of ease and leisure, and she is tired of it. Grant (who selected Loren specifically for this role) is an absent father who must reconnect with his estranged young children after their mother has suddenly passed away. Due to a series of mishaps and odd circumstances Grant ends up buying a houseboat and Loren ends up as the live-in maid. Of course, with his assumptions that she is an unemployed immigrant peasant added to his arrogance of father-knows-best, comedy ensues.
As Grant gets to know his kids he learns to love again and everyone learns that life is not always what you want it to be, but you can always make the best of it. There is a particularly fine moment Grant has with his eldest son and most difficult child played by child star Paul Peterson (The Donna Reed Show). Grant tries to explain what happens when you die. It is a simple, yet intelligent answer that highlights the challenges of parenthood coupled nicely with an example of one of its extremely satisfying moments. Grant connects with his child both as a parent and a human being, and as every person dealing with any child knows, that feels pretty good.
Grant of course is his usual likable self, but is far from being a super dad, which makes it a whole lot easier for the average man to relate to the handsome superstar’s domestic dilemmas. And I suppose it is his leading man status that makes it at all believable that he isn’t immediately smitten with Loren and her obvious appeal. She is absolutely charming as the woman who will keep him coming home, while capable of sharing that love with the whole family. Her moments with the children are as tender and sincere as any you would hope for from a film focused on the family unit. Yet, her sassiness toward Grant (and the other men in the picture) will beguile you as it eventually does Grant.
All in all, Houseboat is a completely satisfying movie offering plenty for everyone to enjoy and nothing by which anyone could possibly be offended. Truly, this is a rare quality sadly missing in most of today’s films aimed at the same audience. So I say turn to the tried and true classics for a night home with the family, or a pleasant evening between just the two of you. Houseboat just goes to show you that entertainment, like families, come in all shapes and sizes. Viva Grant and Loren! Viva la family!