Mommie dumbest: 'Because I Said So' 

An insipid premise, an inferior execution of it and one of the most irritating protagonists in comic memory form the sorry basics of "Because I Said So," a meddling-mother disaster masquerading as an endearing chick flick. Show respect for the gender and avoid this movie. It lacks anything resembling plausible scenarios or emotional truth.

The problems seem rooted in the inception. The movie’s screenwriters, Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson, are collectively responsible for "Stepmom" and "I Am Sam." Director Michael Lehmann has devolved from sharp-edger ("Heathers") to hired hand ("40 Days and 40 Nights"). The star, Diane Keaton, is a marvelous talent, but her willingness to plunge in unreservedly seems bound to lead to embarrassment when the material fails her.

Keaton plays Daphne, an L.A. baker who fears that her youngest daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore), a caterer, will end up like herself — alone and unfulfilled.

To prevent this, Daphne places a personals ad online and, after interviewing respondents, handpicks a rich architect named Jason (Tom Everett Scott) for Milly. She gets more than she schemed for, however, when Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a guitarist who’s overheard her plotting, alsostarts dating Milly, and wins Milly’s heart.

Were there character dimension or brightness here, the film might have had merit as a mother-daughter story, or screwball farce, or portrait of a 60-year-old woman’s awakening or a 20-something’s breaking away. But the screenwriters heap on the cliches and falsities, and Lehmann, seemingly on autopilot, delivers no spark between the predictable plot developments and pathetic gags. Daphne’s shockeroo encounters with Internet porn are unfunny. Is the disclosure that Daphne has never had an orgasm supposed to explain why this woman is so neurotic? Dog reaction shots and a clingy therapy patient increase the tedium.

As for Keaton, what usually makes her wonderful is how she can simultaneously deliver an in-character performance and a force of personality, but, playing a woman who consistently intrudes, screams, frets and gets cake in her face, she’s agonizing to watch. We’re expected to sympathize with Daphne, who apparently was married to a louse and struggled, but the filmmakers are too busy miring her in contrivance to resonantly convey such reality.

Moore’s more watchable, but she’s similarly saddled with phony material. Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo, playing Milly’s sisters, and Stephen Collins, playing Johnny’s father and Daphne’s eventual love interest, round out a supporting cast that deserves better.

CREDITS

Because I Said So

Starring: Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Gabriel Macht, Tom Everett Scott

Written by: Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson

Directed by: Michael Lehmann

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Showtimes: See Examiner City Guide



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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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