Serial Mom (1994)

reviewed by
Michael J. Legeros

                                     SERIAL MOM
                       A film review by Michael John Legeros
                        Copyright 1994 Michael John Legeros
Written and
directed by     John Waters             (PINK FLAMINGOS, HAIRSPRAY,
Cast            Kathleen Turner
                Sam Waterston
                Ricki Lake
                Matthew Lillard
                with smaller roles for Traci Lords,
                Mink Stole, Patricia Hearst, and
                Suzanne Somers.  Yikes!
MPAA Rating     "R" (presumably for gore, violence, nudity, and,
                     maybe, language)
Running time    93 minutes
"Is it menopause?"
            - Sam Waterston to Kathleen Turner,
              curious about her curious behavior.

If memory serves, Kathleen Turner was originally offered the role of the neurotic nanny in ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES. Joan Cusack took it--and ran with it--and Ms. Turner lent her body heat to less-popular films like UNDERCOVER BLUES. Judging from her performance in the new comedy SERIAL MOM, Ms. Turner would've made an admirable addition to the FAMILY. As it stands, her portrayal of a Betty Crocker killer is the *only* thing funny in this rather unfunny film.

Meet Beverly Sutphin (Turner)--a happy homemaker with a happy home and a happy family. Dad (Waterston) is a dentist, daughter's (Lake) in college, and son (Lillard) is a high-school-aged gore-film freak. They all smile in the sunshine and beam over breakfast and Mom sends her clan packing with fresh fruit in their lunches. But once they've left, her countenance cracks and Beverly becomes the Housewife From Hell.

Her "day" begins with obscene phone calls to a neighborhood woman. Then comes a visit to the high school and a suggestion from a teacher that her son seek therapy. Beverly snaps and, on her way out, calmly runs the man down with her car. The body count begins as frau Sutphin sets her sights on everyone from her daughter's impolite boyfriend to a nosy neighbor who doesn't recycle...

Buyer beware, director John Waters--two words: PINK FLAMINGOS--pushes the "R" rating to the limit. SERIAL MOM is an omnibus of gross-out gags and *nothing* is sacred in these Waters. You can imagine the director's glee in letting his players play with everything from fresh phlegm to eviscerated internal organs. Yum yum.

Very black it is, very funny it ain't. SERIAL MOM covers familiar ground with yet another satirical slam on white-bread America. Heck, we saw it only last week in Michael Ritchie's less-daring but far-funnier COPS AND ROBBERSONS. Plastic America is a tired cliche. Period.

SERIAL MOM also targets the current craze of courtroom celebrities. But let's face it, we've already *had* our laughs at Lorena Bobbitt and Tonya Harding and Menendez and Mendendez. How can the film's mildly amusing trial sequence ever *hope* to compete with Letterman or Leno on a good night?

Equally distressing is the missing climax. SERIAL MOM ends abruptly and without anything resembling a "big finish." Too bad.

Kathleen Turner is a stitch as June-Cleaver-with-a-cleaver and her manic mood changes are the lifeblood of SERIAL MOM. Turner brings a campy charm to all of her scenes, including an inspired moment of Hitchcock homage with Beverly bludgeoning a woman (with a leg of lamb, no less!) who is watching and singing along to ANNIE. The rest of the cast--and the film--should be so funny.

NOTE:   Watch the end credits for the amusing statement that "no
        flies were killed or injured in the making of this motion
BOTTOM LINE:    John Waters has completed his merge into mainstream
                moviemaking with SERIAL MOM--a killer comedy that's
                more gross than funny.  Kathleen Turner is great and
                that's about it.
Grade: C+

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