5 Plot Point Breakdown: Three Men and a Baby (1987)

Screenplay Genre: Drama/Farce

Movie Time: 104 minutes

1. INCITING INCIDENT

Architect Peter Mitchell (Tom Selleck), cartoonist Michael Kellam (Steve Guttenberg), and actor Jack Holden (Ted Danson) are three bachelors living the good life in a posh Manhattan penthouse. Beautiful women, fine wine, and exclusive parties occupy their time as they bask in the joys of bachelorhood. One day, a baby named Mary (Lisa and Michelle Blair), who was fathered by Jack now away in Turkey on a film shoot, is left on their doorstep.  Like it or not, the swinging lifestyles of these three men are about to be tamed. (00:16:51)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

After Peter goes to the market to buy diapers and “soft stuff” food for the baby, Michael tries unsuccessfully to stop Mary from crying by entertaining her with his cartoon characters. Peter returns with oversized diapers and, despite his experience building skyscrapers, is unable to attach a diaper to Mary before she pees all over him. Peter and Michael, dismayed at their failure to use their career training to appease a helpless baby, look at each other. Michael mutters, “I think we’re in trouble.” (00:27:53)

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

Jack’s friend, Paul Milner (John Gould Rubin), had a package delivered to Jack to hold for him while Jack was in Turkey. When two men show up to pick up the package, Peter and Michael give them Mary, thinking Mary is the “package” they are referring to. Only when Peter discovers the real package, a small box containing bags of heroin, do Peter and Michael realize their mistake. Peter recovers Mary but keeps the heroin, which draws the suspicion of detectives staked outside their apartment. Jack returns early from his film shoot in Turkey, claiming his “part was cut”. Peter and Michael try to temper their anger against Jack by explaining to him the mess and chaos he’s brought into their lives. (00:56:04)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

After Peter, Michael, and Jack concoct an elaborate scheme to trap the drug dealers in an elevator at a construction site, Mary’s mother, Sylvia (Nancy Travis) shows up at the trio’s apartment. She is returning home to London and wants to take Mary with her. She discusses the idea with Jack who reluctantly accepts Sylvia’s decision. On a rainy afternoon, Peter, Jack, and Michael send Sylvia and Mary off in a taxi cab headed for the airport. They wave goodbye as the infant who irrevocably turned their lives upside down disappears from view.  (01:23:28)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

After a change of heart from Jack, the three men, who have been pining for Mary, rush to the airport to stop Sylvia from taking her to London. They arrive a few minutes late and watch helplessly as the airplane pulls away from the tarmac. They go home where they are surprised to see Sylvia, who’s camped on their doorstep with tears streaming down her face. She has changed her mind. After explaining her situation, Sylvia pleas for help. Peter proposes an idea. Sylvia and Mary will move in with Peter, Michael, and Jack. Everyone agrees. (01:36:01)

And just for fun, here’s the trailer at just over 30 years old:


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