At the time of its release, NOTHING IN COMMON was the young Tom Hanks' best film since 1984's SPLASH and Jackie Gleason's best film in over twenty years. It was also Gleason's final film (he died in 1987). Both are wonderful in this uplifting, well-made comedy based on family, the kind of film that was a staple of the eighties. Hanks is a young, immature ad man who learns that his mother has left his father and has to split his time between his newly independent mother, his cranky, closed off father and an important new account at his agency. Along the way he attempts to rekindle an old flame from high school.
The story allows Hanks to display the kind of charm and good humor that made him an instant star in SPLASH and carry him through several more films until the breakthrough BIG. But despite Hanks as the lead and a superb cast featuring three radiant actresses and several terrific character actors, the film belongs to Jackie Gleason. NOTHING IN COMMON bubbles along on the considerable talent of Hanks, but when Gleason shows up, it becomes an entirely different, and better, film. As an aging salesman who has lost his touch, Gleason proves he would have made a great Willie Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. It is perhaps his best performance since playing the Chaplinesque the deaf mute in GIGOT. Gleason is riveting, having lost nothing of his underrated acting chops that surprised the world in the early '60s in THE HUSTLER and REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT. He was also still a master of comedy, tossing off some funny lines in his patented Ralph Kramden growl ("She couldn't cook anyway. You know the dog didn't die, he committed suicide.").
But the one-liners are just a defense for a scared old man with diabetes who has alienated everyone in his life and is now utterly alone. Gleason's portrayal of Max Basner ranks with his greatest work as he creates a character that looks and feels like what Ralph Kramden might have been like had Alice left him for one tantrum too many. Despite having "nothing in common" stylistically or physically, Gleason and Hanks make you truly believe they are father and son, a tribute to the acting abilities of both men.
NOTHING IN COMMON is an average family-friendly 1980s comedy when Gleason is not around, and one of the best "dramadies" of the decade when he is. It is also part of a "father-son" trend in the eighties that included later films like MEMORIES OF ME (Billy Crystal, Alan King) and DAD (Ted Danson, Jack Lemmon). ½ - JB
HOW NOT TO MAKE A COMMERCIAL
"Yeah, I thought it would be interesting for her to say goodbye to
the cat because she's gonna be visiting her grandkids in Southern
"Or course, of course, I see, that's a good idea, that's a really good idea... Let's do a commercial about a sweet old grandma who abandons a cat in a freezing cold house in the dead of winter so she can go off and romp with the grandkids, that's a real good idea, Rog! We can get coverage of the cat like, clawing his way trying to get out so he can lick snow and get some nourishment, this starving little scrawny cat! Who's got other... any other animals that we can bring in that Grandma can torture before she leaves? Maybe throw a squirrel in the fireplace or something or something like that? We don't want to work in advertising any more, do we? No!"