Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 29, 2021)
A decade after the series started, 1944 brought The Thin Man Goes Home. This delivers the fifth of the franchise’s six flicks.
Along with his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) and loyal pooch Asta, famed detective Nick Charles (William Powell) returns to his hometown of Sycamore Springs to visit his parents. Unfortunately, his physician father Bertram (Harry Davenport) remains unhappy that Nick didn’t follow in his career footsteps, so Nora tries to redeem her husband in his pop’s eyes.
Nick soon finds himself back on the job. When a murder occurs in peaceful Sycamore Springs, Nick hops onto the case – and hopes to finally impress his father to boot.
Although I enjoyed the first Thin Man, the subsequent two chapters did less for me. I found 1936’s After the Thin Man and 1939’s Another Thin Man to deliver lackluster adventures.
Though not great, 1941’s Shadow of the Thin Man offered a moderate rebound. That left me hopeful that Home might give us another genial and likable Thin Man tale.
And that it does, albeit not via a story with a ton of consistency. Home takes its sweet time to get into gear, and even when it does so, the movie still feels loose and somewhat aimless.
Home goes almost half an hour before the mystery side of the plot emerges. During the first act, we spend more time with character elements and comedy.
These work pretty well, and I like the fact Nora gets more to do than usual. Nora tends to take too much of a backseat to Nick in these movies, whereas Home allows Mrs. Charles a more active part in the story.
I like the look at Nick’s family, and the character orientation seems engaging. It almost disappoints when the mystery side of the movie finally comes to light.
Not that this means I find the final 70 minutes to flop, as Home remains pretty entertaining. The biggest issue comes from the semi-incoherence of the criminal exploration, as the investigation tends to meander.
Still, Home throws out enough quirky character material and plot twists to keep us with it, and both Powell and Loy seem surprisingly engaged given how many times they’d played these characters. Neither sets the screen on fire, but they offer quality performances as our leads.
Five films into the series, it seems inevitable I’ll never enjoy a Thin Man movie as much as the original, and Goes Home doesn’t threaten the 1934 flick’s status as best of the bunch. Nonetheless, it becomes an entertaining mix of comedy and detective material that keeps us with it pretty well.