A slick, smart vehicle for Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, Housesitter offers an acceptably daffy premise and enough inventive business to sustain it through to the, not unexpected, happy ending. Architect Martin builds a dream home for his childhood sweetheart (Dana Delaney) only to be rejected when he proposes marriage. After a one-night stand, Hawn--a daffy waitress with a gift for making up improbable but convincing lies--moves into Martin's house and tells his parents (Donald Moffatt, Julie Harris) and the whole community that she is his surprise new wife. When he sees how this impresses Delaney, Martin goes along with the charade, encouraging wilder and wilder fictions and doing his best to join in so that he can rush through to a divorce and move on to the woman he has always wanted. Hawn has to recruit a couple of winos to pose as her parents and impress Martin's boss into giving him a promotion, but we glimpse her real misery at his eventual intention to toss her out of the make-believe world she has created because her own real background is so grim.
Its sit-com hi-jinx are manic enough not to be strangled by an inevitable dip in to sentiment towards the end, and Hawn, who always has to work hard, is better matched against the apparently effortless Martin than in their subsequent pairing in Out-of-Towners. Martin, often wasted in comparatively straight roles, has a few wild and crazy scenes as Hawn prompts him into joining her improvised fantasies. Director Frank Oz, a frequent Martin collaborator (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Little Shop of Horrors, Bowfinger), is the model of a proper, competent, professional craftsman when he sets out to put a comedy together--but the film misses streaks of lunacy or cruelty that might have made it funnier and more affecting.
On the DVD: The disc offers a pristine widescreen non-anamorphic transfer, letterboxed to 1.85:1. There are no extra features to speak of, just text-based production notes, cast and director bios, plus a trailer and an assortment of language and subtitle options. --Kim Newman