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Drowning Mona

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Drowning Mona

Starring: Danny DeVito, Neve Campbell
Director: Nick Gomez
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: March 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: William Fichtner, Casey Affleck, Will Ferrell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bette Midler, Peter Dobson, Marcus Thomas

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

Say what you will about Ben Affleck, but one cannot deny that he has screen presence. The same, however, cannot be said of his younger brother Casey, who is given his biggest opportunity to step out of his Oscar-winning sibling's shadow in _Drowning_Mona_. But his flat performance isn't the only thing that contributes to this dark comedy's overall lack of color.

_Mona_ is an ensemble film, but Affleck's character, mousy landscaper Bobby Calzone, is given the greatest amount of focus. He is a suspect in the murder of the ironically named Mona Dearly (Bette Midler), who was anything but dear to Bobby, who was involved in a business partnership with Mona's dim son Jeff (Marcus Thomas). Then again, Mona wasn't dear to anyone but herself, hence just about everyone in her small town of Verplanck, New York is a suspect: Jeff; Mona's philandering husband, Phil (William Fichtner); Phil's mistress, Rona (Jamie Lee Curtis); and Bobby's fiancée, Ellen (Neve Campbell), who happens to be the daughter of Police Chief Wyatt Rash (Danny DeVito), the leader of the murder investigation.

Among this group are a couple of interesting characters. Making notable impressions are Campbell, who displays a surprising comic flair; Will Ferrell's mere facial expressions are good for a laugh as a creepy undertaker;and Midler, who is deliciously nasty in her few flashback scenes. But much attention is paid to those considerably less interesting, namely Bobby, who is made even more bland by Affleck's opaque, inexpressive performance. It's not that he had to hype up his portrayal; after all, DeVito does a quietly effective job in his straight-arrow part. It's just that he forgets that even the most "normal" of characters still has some personality, and he doesn't give Bobby any.

But Affleck isn't entirely to blame the drowning of _Mona_; writer Peter Steinfeld and director Nick Gomez do a good (bad) enough job of it on their own. There a few funny scenes and a biting one-liner here and there, but they are outnumbered by the groaners. Steinfeld does pack in a couple of interesting twists along the way, but his story is ultimately done in by a too-contrived resolution, which ends what is supposed to be a dark comedy on an overly pat and sunny note. Then again, the latter can be said about the entire film; it's supposed to be dark and mean-spirited, but it never goes beyond a somewhat dark shade of grey; perhaps the PG-13 rating held more sinister--and possibly funnier--instincts in check?

Regardless of the rating, however, one would expect a comedy to be funny. _Drowning Mona_ is that, but only on occasion. The rest of the time, the film relies on bad wigs (sported by nearly every cast member) and references to cheap Yugo cars for laughs. It's hardly surprising, then, that _Mona_ goes down in a heap long before Mona takes her plunge from a cliff; the real fatal crash happened back in the writing stage.

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