DROWNING MONA / (2000) ***
Starring: Danny DeVito, Neve Campbell, Casey Affleck, Bette Midler, Jamie Lee Curtis, Will Ferrell, and William Fichtner Directed By Nick Gomez . Written by Peter Steinfeld. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for thematic elements, language, sexuality, and some violence).
I've always been vulnerable to the genre of slapstick comedy. When movies spoof with screwball or physical humor, for me it is a struggle not to break down in laughter. "Drowning Mona" may not be a truly worthy production, but the film does offer funny concepts within its contents, some that are hilarious with punctuality. This comedy touches ironic base with nearly every topic possible, from murder to lesbianism, and accidents to brutality. There are laughs regarding plot jokes, concepts, one liners, physical pranks, and visual gags. Director Nick Gomez is careful not to go too far over the top in his movie's parody but still pushes the boundaries of burlesque cinema in an interesting manor.
No one mourns over the death of Mona Dearly--a woman so brutally mean spirited and uncompromisingly inferior, even her husband rejoices of her demise. Mona dies tragically in an automobile accident within a small outcast town after she losses her car brakes and plunges off the road into a lake below. Hardly anyone comes to her funeral, except her husband, Phil Dearly (William Fichtner), and her fully grown son, who owns a landscaping business with a friend named Bobby Calzone (Casey Affleck). The entire town seems to be rejoicing over the loss of this putrid, hated citizen. "I've seen people more upset over losing change in a candy machine," explains a character in one scene. Through flashbacks, we learn why. Mona does horrible things like smashing her son's co-worker's car with a golf club, accuses people, commits dastardly deeds, chops her own offspring's limb off, and is a poor sport at nearly every event we witness.
The movie is filled with a variety of wondering and well-cast characters. They include Wyatt Rash (Danny DeVito), a local sheriff who is convinced that the death of Mona Dearly was no accident and considers everyone who hated Mona (every individual who knew her) a suspect. Ellen (Neve Campbell), the daughter of Rash, engaged and impregnated by Bobby. Rona, (Jamie Lee Curtis) a chain smoking waitress who is having an affair with Phil. Rona, however, is cheating on Phil with his son. There is also a local fisherman who seems to witness ever important incident that occurs.
I enjoyed the film's appropriately zany and fun characters a lot. Each is somewhat interesting and well depicted by talented actors and actresses. Mona Dearly is one of the most hilariously overacted character's I have seen in quite some time. Bette Midler is the perfect choice for Mona, with her exaggerated gestures and reactions. Her performance supplies half of the picture's effective funny moments.
"Downing Mona" is certainly not a perfect production. It has several massive problems contained within the story and characters. The audience doesn't learn whether this is a movie about the mysterious death of a local woman, agonizing wedding preparations for a young embraced pair, a police detective's investigation of an alleged murder, an independent and struggling landscaping company, an adulterous affair, and even boneless chicken is figured into the equation. Some of these scenarios do not seem to recognize the presence of the others, proving what little narrative connection they have with each other.
The film also desperately attempts to fulfill unexplained nuggets the story brings forth in non-chronologically based orders that never really clarify ideas. Although some of these incidences induce laughs and intrigue, the funny material needs to be in reference with the plot, not outside the story's boundaries.
The movie's mystery is not as sufficient as it could have been. It is infectious and interesting, but unfocused and drifted. Though amusing and twisted, the whodunit concept is lackadaisical and flat--concluding with a lazy and disappointing situation. I adored the film's soundtrack, however, which consists of a variety of popular melodies and catchy rhythmical tones. The included music induces suspicion as well as mood settings and an effective black comedy atmosphere.
"Drowning Mona" works as a slapstick comedy because of two reasons. 1) The subject matter is literal and serious, creating an obscure yet black funny mood, and 2) the actors create screwball personalities for their characters. If this kind of comedy has those elements, it nearly guarantees its success. I give this film a recommendation to fans of its gender, albeit marginally.
Brought to you by Destination Films.
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