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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MAMA’S BOY (article first published : 2008-06-23)

Bucktoothed and rather gormless, the whiney Jon Heder made an impression in the hit Napoleon Dynamite and, more recently, raised a few smiles as a nerdy ice-skater, alongside Will Ferrell, in Blades Of Glory.

In Mama’s Boy, directed by newcomer Tim Hamilton, Heder starts off hinting of striving for a different screen persona, but once again ends up delivering a character that surveys life from a lofty height, waves aside affection and attention from others, has outbursts for no apparent reason and battles to come to grip with his emotions.

It doesn’t help that Jeffrey Mannus is a self-absorbed jerk and slacker who remains unlikeable throughout this film, even when the ending – cribbed wholesale from John Cusack’s 1989 hit, Say Anything – tries to show him in a better light.

Jeffrey is a 29-year-old loner whose dress sense is firmly rooted in the past – skinny ties, thin-lapel blazers with badges, stovepipe jeans – and whose idea of a great evening is to play putt-putt or board games with his widowed mom, Jan (Diane Keaton). But things are about to change - Jan has started dating a motivational speaker, Mert (a bloated Jeff Daniels). She wants her space and tries to subtly send the message to her son.

However, it’s clear subtlety ain’t gonna work. The self-absorbed Jeffrey, who works in a secondhand bookstore owned by an oldtimer pal (Eli Wallach) is not amused at a new man muscling in on mom and plans to do something about it. While trying to sabotage his mother’s blossoming romance, Jeffrey crosses paths with coffee shop waitress-singer Nora (Anna Faris) who tries to spark a romance. Jeffrey, however, will seemingly have none of it – Mert the Monster is his target and his arrows will fly in no other direction.

A good cast notwithstanding, Mama’s Boy never finds it feet and, under novice Hamilton’s lacklustre direction, emerges as lethargic and unmemorable.

The film is never very funny and wastes the talents of Keaton, Daniels and Wallach, all of whom, however, do their best with the bitty, bland material. Heder fans might be interested, but Mama’s Boy is unlikely to rate high on anyone’s year-end list of film favourites. No surprise that it went straight to DVD in some countries. – Billy Suter




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