‘Because I Said So’ will bring an end to civilization

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

It was one of those gloomy, grey, depressing midwinter days. I needed sunshine and laughter. Maybe a movie, maybe a light romantic comedy.

I check the newspaper. How about “Because I Said So?” Mandy Moore, Diane Keaton. Sounds like just the thing to lift up my sagging spirits.

Off I go. Big mistake. The critics came down on this annoying movie like hagfish on a dead whale, and for a change they were absolutely right. The longer I sat through this hunk o’ piffle, the angrier I got, and the easier it was to understand why some guys have commitment problems.

I do not exaggerate when I say: This movie will bring an end to civilization. Diane Keaton stole all our hearts a lifetime ago, in “Annie Hall.” Now in her 60s and still a handsome woman, she seems content to take roles as either an out-of-sync smart lady or a blabbergasted, overprotective mommy-from-hell. In “Because I Said So,” she blabbers and overprotects to the max.

Mandy Moore plays the youngest of three daughters – the other two, Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo, are happily married – who has difficulty finding a decent guy. Her mom (Keaton) worries and hovers (like a helicopter, it’s pointed out) and takes things into her own hands.

Yep, from here on it’s your standard Meddling Mom Messes Up Adorable Daughter’s Life template. Mom recruits a perfect-looking architect (Tom Everett Scott) who is cute but bad-tempered while, of course, daughter falls for lowly musician (Gabriel Macht) – and romantic comedy (supposedly) ensues.

But just to prove this is a hip, modern movie, Moore starts sleeping with both guys. (No, not at the same time.) And throughout the vast, empty middle part of the movie, while the love triangle grinds inexorably along, the four women are shown doing (presumably) what Women Love To Do: they constantly jibber-jabber while either A) rearranging furniture, B) shop for shoes, or C) bake cakes.

And even apart, even in the midst of love-making, they are in constant touch via cell phone. It ain’t funny, McGee. In fact, obviously desperate for some hint of humor, director Michael Lehmann stoops to gagging it up using reaction shots of the family’s dog and topping even that with the ancient, dreaded, unfunny pie-in-the-face scene.

What Keaton really needs in this, besides a whole new script, is a strong male counterpart – like she had in 2003’s “Something’s Gotta Give.” That film was saved from eternal Chick-Flickiness by Jack Nicholson’s appearance. In “Because,” Keaton ends up with Stephen Collins, who I last enjoyed in the 1982 TV series “Tales of the Gold Monkey.” He’s good, he’s comfy, but he’s no Nicholson.

And to be fair, let’s add that Gabriel Macht also does a reasonable job with a nowhere goodguy role.

Skip this one, pal. Just because I said so.

Meanwhile, back at the crystal ball:

What looks like it’s going to be worth seeing over the next few months, before the Summer Blockbusters show up to disappoint us? Things aren’t really as bleak as the weather. First, there’ll be a gradual rollout of the Oscar movies. I mean, has “Letters from Iwo Jima” come to your neighborhood yet?

And here’s a brief heads-up on some of the forthcoming releases that sound intriguing: “Music and Lyrics” opens on Valentine’s Day, and with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, should be a less-stupid romantic comedy than the Diane Keaton train wreck. Have you seen the coming attractions for “Bridge to Tarabithia?” Looks very imaginative. Could be a nice, two-hour bridge to adolescence.

Then there’s “Hot Fuzz.” It’s by the same creative team that came up with “Shaun of the Dead,” a very funny, very witty zombie movie. I’ll give ‘em another chance, and just hope.

Finally, keep an eye out for “The Nanny Diaries.” It’s a satire with a boffo cast: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. Gotta be interesting.


Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The New Dominion. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.


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