In the business of reviewing films you will definitely have your ups and downs. This week has absolutely been a downer. It seems that I can’t get a break. There are just too many bad movies out there. When I settled down to view Mama’s Boy there was a little hope. Looking at the cast you see some pretty solid names. Two veteran Godfather film actors in Diane Keaton and Eli Wallach make for a pretty good start. Jeff Daniels might not be the best out there, but he certainly has range playing plenty of fair to good comedic roles and also delivering a stellar performance as Col. Chamberlain in the Civil War hits
Mama’s Boy begins when young Jeffrey Mannus loses his father to an automobile accident. He’s a somewhat insecure kid already, and the tragedy drives him to cling to his mother for fear of being alone. Mom (Keaton) does nothing to make Jeffrey (Heder) grow up, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that years later he’s 29 and still living at home. He works at a bookstore owned by a family friend (Wallach) who keeps him on more for the memory of his father than the kid’s work. All is well until Mom finds love herself in the form of motivational speaker Mert (Daniels). Jeffrey takes an immediate dislike to the guy and sets out to sabotage the relationship, all the while missing out on a relationship he doesn’t quite recognize developing with fellow social outcast Nora (Faris). The movie devolves into an adolescent battle of pranks between Mert and Jeffrey. Eventually the story reaches the obligatory epiphanies and the resulting effort to set things right. And they all lived happily ever after.
About the best thing I can say for this exercise in idiocy is that it does have about 3 or 4 genuinely humorous moments. These were the times I surprised myself with a laugh. Even though no one else was in the room, I found myself feeling a little ashamed that I actually found any of this tripe funny. I was equally surprised that the film enjoyed…. perhaps that’s the wrong word … the film experienced a short run at the box office. Keaton and Daniels appear very stiff as they attempt to frolic in their inane love affair in spite of the obstacles placed their way. The couple is so entirely unlikely, and more importantly unlikeable, that I don’t care if they’re being torpedoed by the insecure Heder. Heder, for his part, is either a bad actor or just didn’t have anything to work with here. Likely the truth is a little bit of both. He mostly walks around in a stupor attempting to look cool in exaggerated poses. None of the characters appear at all comfortable here. At least it shows a conscience. The film is punctuated by bad British Invasion wannabe music clips that sound like a cross between Men At Work and
Mama’s Boy is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is a terribly average video presentation. Colors are often a tad dark, likely an attempt to add a moody element to the film. There’s excessive grain in the darker elements, making black levels relatively weak. I found the level of detail to be somewhat marred by the darker images. There is a small amount of compression artifact that doesn’t help either. You do have the option of a full frame presentation on the flip side of a two-sided disc. I did not view that version.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does deliver some punch in the awful musical bites. It’s enough to wake you up as you doze from time to time. Dialog is fine, and really that’s what most of this is. There aren’t a lot of ambient sounds to speak of, so this thing pretty much lives front and center.
There is an Audio Commentary with director Tim Hamilton. He touches on so many subjects that the track seems to be a little choppy. His justification for the musical cuts is a little conceited. He constantly tells us how informal and light the set was, yet comments that he might have made the film a little too dark. Go figure.
Deleted Scenes: There are a little over 6 minutes of added footage here. Most of it is merely extended and alternative takes on stuff already there. There is an alternative ending which is actually worse and more clichéd than the one used. Just imagine. This thing could have been worse.
When food judges and critics taste for competition, they cleanse their palates between each entry. Wine tasters use crackers to clear the remnants of the previous vintage from their tender taste buds before continuing. Perhaps it’s time to apply that approach to reviewing a DVD. I think we should be required to watch something we already know is entertaining between each DVD we review, particularly if said DVD’s are as bad as the bunch I’ve had to watch recently. In fairness I should mention that I likely fell asleep during some of this film. I don’t know if it was the movie itself or the wine and food I was “judging beforehand”. I promise you I took my duty and responsibility to you, gentle reader, quite seriously. I did everything I could to remain awake, from caffeinated soda to massive doses of sugar. I must candidly report to you that “nothing worked”.