Movie Flashback Review: Max Dugan Returns

Before all the movies in the 80s were made by John Hughes, all the movies were written by Neil Simon. For a while, he was able to capture something of the collective angst of divorce and the loss of the 50’s ‘Model Family’ ideal and put it into plays and movies and do it while giving some sort of hope to people that relationships that are lost are not the same as relationships that have ended.

This is a sweet little Neil Simon piece that very much appealed to me growing up as a the only child of a divorced, school teacher mom struggling to get by every month.

It is about a struggling, single school teacher raising a child by herself and who can barely make the monthly bills getting a surprise visit from her estranged father, flush with ill begotten cash he wants to spend on her and his grandson. Where has he been? Where did the cash come from? What is going on? You know, it really doesn’t matter. Who wouldn’t want find a sack of cash and spend it on helping the people they love?


I remember this movie not doing very well with critics or with audiences, but it became popular in our house as it was played on HBO or the other movie channels every summer for years after it came out. My mom and I watched it dozens of times while dreaming that my long-lost Uncle Phil would show up with a bag of cash to spend on us.

Ultimately, it is a nice little, underrated fantasy story with some really good performances from Marsha Mason and Matthew Broderick as her son.

The neighbor lady is played by Dody Goodman who is, as always, hilarious.

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