I like free....
This banner was supplied by SAFE Audit

by Joe Soria

I don't know what it is but for some reason Hollywood thinks death is cause for a comedy. Remember Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, or more recently the mobster comedies like Analyze This, The Whole Nine Yards, and the true extreme Mafia (a mediocre and very unfunny film). Obviously Drowning Mona has something to do with the immersion of a female into water with the result being death. In other words, someone named Mona drowns. That sounds real funny to me, how about you?

Mona Dearly (Bette Midler) is the menace of the town  Verplanc, she’s a big bitch.  Relentlessly annoying and just an overall mean person. When she shows up dead in the river, no one is very saddened by her death. The town sheriff (Danny Devito) thinks the whole thing is fishy and starts an investigation in the small town Verplanc.

From the beginning the film is a whodunit picture that incorporates flashbacks to establish it's background plus interviews by the chief with the people of the town to get down to the bottom of the case. These are two major parts in which the "humor" comes in but there is a minimal amount of it. The first few flashbacks of Mona with her family and her interactions with just about everybody are very funny. But they become a tiresome bore but they must continue because the film's title character is dead and this is probably the only way to bring her to life somewhat besides making her resurrect from the grave.

There are a plethora of suspects in this film. Mona's servile and self-proclaimed battered husband Phil (William Fitchner), her imbecile one-handed son Jeff, and her son's business partner Bobby (Casey Affleck). They were all at odds with her at one time or another. Mona's altercations were often and widespread. Her husband was having an affair with Rhone (Jaime Lee Curtis) ; he might have wanted to off his wife to go with Rhone. Bobby was arguing with her about the depreciation of the landscaping venture he and her son were involved in together. The cause for this loss of money was her son but what did this matter to her. When Bobby hints to firing Jeff, Mona replies either you deal with us or buy us out in her mean tone of voice that she does best. Incidentally, Bobby is soon to be married to Ellen (Neve Campbell), the daughter of the police chief. 

The film attempts to be a hip, edgy and quirky slapstick, in your face comedy but ultimately fails and falls into a pit of unoriginality and a sea of overused plotlines. The film's surprises and twists are completely predictable and very commonplace in current film, just way too predictable. 

Drowning Mona as a film ultimately becomes like anyone of it's characters: a piece of boring, inconsequential, average, trash. The humor is underwhelmingly dumfounding. Bette Midler yelling and screaming like a madman doesn't do it for me. Affleck is ineffective in his role. He's soft spoken and outspoken in the film as his character should be, but he gets lost in the background. This is the reason his career has been full of bit parts in films like this one and last year's ensemble crapfest 200 Cigarettes. I do give him credit for his funny, but short in lines roles in films such as Good Will Hunting and American Pie but the more he's in the film the less you appreciate him. 

Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis are both unfunny hags in this film. They're in the film so their names can go on the posters to put people in the seats. I'd never see a movie just to see Curtis but I would to se Campbell. The funniest roles in the film were played by William Fitchner and Will Ferrell. Fitchner is very funny as the unassuming husband of Mona. I've enjoyed his roles in such films as Contact and Go plus his few seasons on that classic show "Grace Under Fire" with Brett Butler. Ferrell of "Saturday Night Live"     fame is funny as a horny, old owner of the town funeral parlor. He's just very strange and odd. His character is what the movie meant to be, oddball, offbeat and very amusing. The last good part of the film was an ongoing joke involving the junky Yugo cars. Everyone in the town has a Yugo as part of a trial run for the company. It's just a very funny joke, that made me laugh a few times throughout the movie. It's the first thing you hear about in the movie and it is a lasting joke.

I put most of the blame fro the mediocrity of the film on the writer and producer. The writer, Peter Steinfeld, has little experience in screenwriting at all and none of it is in feature films. On the other hand the director, Nick Gomez, has an excellent resume TV but his film resume isn't too great. He's directed episodes of some of my all time favorite shows like "Homicide", "Oz", and everyone's new favorite show "The Sopranos". The direction of the film has a good look but the acting was just bad and needed some direction. It was probably hard for him to control these big time stars but still his fault.

Drowning Mona is a film that really meant to be comical, tried it's darndest but lost the battle. It lost the battle, the war and anything else it could possibly lose. A funny setting, some talented cast members, and some good jokes, could not overpower a weak script, some major overacting and multiple bad jokes.


*1/2 Stars out 4/ 33 out of 100
Reviewed by Joe Soria
Running Time: 110 minutes  
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, language, and implied violence.

Cast: Danny DeVito, Casey Affleck, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell, William Fichtner, Marcus Thomas, Jamie Lee Curtis and Will Ferrell.

Directed by: Nick Gomez ( "The Sopranos", "Oz", "Homicide: LOTS")
Written by:
Peter Steinfeld

A good oldies soundtrack, worth a listen. 

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Click Here!