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Mama's Boy DVD Review

Mama's Boy movie poster Mama's Boy

Theatrical Release: November 30, 2007 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Tim Hamilton / Writer: Hank Nelken

Cast: Jon Heder (Jeffrey Mannus), Diane Keaton (Jan Mannus), Jeff Daniels (Mert Rosenbloom), Anna Faris (Nora Flannigan), Eli Wallach (Seymour Warburton), Mary Kay Place (Barbara), Sarah Chalke (Maya Sinclair), Dorian Missick (Mitch), Adam Devine (Alhorn), Simon Helberg (Rathkon), Rhys Coiro (Trip), Hank Dougan (Young Jeffrey), Laura Kightlinger (Mert's Secretary)

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Practically overnight, Jon Heder went from being someone who would pose for a board game box cover to the actor behind one of the most iconic characters of 21st Century cinema, Napoleon Dynamite. After the 2004 release and gradual word-of-mouth fervor took that quirky independent
comedy to new heights in merchandise and quotability, Hollywood came calling for Heder.

In an industry renowned more for proven formulas than originality, it shouldn't be too surprising that the projects coming Heder's way asked him to geek it up like the persona that made him famous. One can't really blame Heder, who received $1,000 for three weeks of playing Napoleon, for pursuing offers surely more lucrative over fading into obscurity (amidst death rumors). And thus in the four years since his breakout performance, Heder's essentially reprised that role (outside of high school and sans thick glasses and curly red hair) in comedies of the sports, romantic, and computer-animated varieties.

Mama's Boy also doesn't invite Heder to test his range. Here, he plays Jeffrey Mannus, a dorky 29-year-old bookstore employee. Ever since Jeffrey's father died well over a decade ago, his best friend and top social priority has been his widowed mother, Jan (Diane Keaton). In fact, Jeffrey still lives at home with Mom, continuing to expect a bagged lunch with his bus stop send-off.

Mama's Boy (Jon Heder) isn't especially nice or understanding towards Mama (Diane Keaton). Potential stepfather Mert Rosenbloom (Jeff Daniels) and stepson (Jon Heder) exchange hostile looks.

The mother and son's unusually close but comfortable living arrangement becomes threatened when Jan meets Mert Rosenbloom (Jeff Daniels), a part-time musician and full-time motivational speaker who preaches positivity.
At first, it's only the regular Friday night mini golf game that's getting nixed, but before long, Mert is moving in, with little consideration given to Jeffrey's feeble objections.

Jeffrey acquires a love interest of his own in Nora (Anna Faris), a broody coffee shop worker and aspiring anti-corporate songstress. But he's too caught up in plotting to push away Mert to even recognize it.

Mama's Boy reminds one of many recent films. The element of intergenerational rivalry between Jeffrey and Mert calls to mind Rushmore, while the uncomfortable relations between families set to unite harks back to Meet the Parents. Naturally, this newer movie fails to make as big of an impression as either of those. Others will point out obvious plot similarities to contemporary comedies Failure to Launch and Mr. Woodcock. Those comparisons are ones that Mama's Boy can likely stand up to and emerge victoriously in most viewers' eyes. Then there are hallmarks of the romantic comedy, a genre Mama's flirts with heavily, but not exclusively.

A mini golf game at the Putt-Putt gets tense as Mert and Jeffrey square off, with the woman they can't share in the middle. Anna Faris plays Nora Farrington, a coffee house cashier and aspiring singer-songwriter who shares her brand name-filled protest songs every Saturday night.

In spite of the familiar aspects of the screenplay and execution, Mama's Boy does entertain with some comic energy all its own. Jeff Daniels brings appropriate amounts of smarm to his role as the seemingly unflappable beau. Jon Heder may still be playing to type, but hey, so did Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. Versatility may be a lot more in vogue now, but Heder continues to embody awkward unpleasantness in as likable a way possible.

Diane Keaton handles her part fine, though she is given surprisingly little to do. Nonagenarian Eli Wallach gives yet another good performance, making the most of his few scenes and delivering some of the funniest lines. Anna Faris shows she can play more than airheads, even if her character's romance with Jeffrey is purely standard-issue.

Chances are that despite the esteemed cast, you haven't heard of Mama's Boy and may assume it's now going straight to DVD. In fact, it did receive a limited theatrical release late last fall, but only in a few select markets in the southern United States. Cinemas in parts of Europe have gotten or will get it, but in its native country, the film didn't even emerge with an official box office record. Though it's not something that will rally critical support (neither do the majority of studio releases), the movie doesn't have low quality to blame for its unbefitting, unceremonious distribution.

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1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and
1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired,
French, Spanish; Video Extras Subtitled
Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98 (Reduced from $27.98)
Double-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-10)
Black Keepcase

Would you like to take a survey? Do you play Scrabble? Would you like to see a new movie starring Eli Wallach? Do you play Scrabble with Eli Wallach? Would you like to see Eli Wallach play Scrabble in a movie? Do you play Scrabble at Eli Wallach movies? If you answered yes to any of the preceding questions, be sure to check out Mama's Boy's deleted scenes. The main menu recreates the little-seen Mama's Boy one-sheet movie poster, complete with a garish green.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Mama's Boy arrives on a double-sided DVD that serves up both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film. I watched the former, a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that was clean, colorful, and without any shortcoming noticeable on a standard TV.
Your Mom Goes to College Black T-Shirt
Napoleon Dynamite Door Poster Adult Napoleon Dynamite Mask with Hair and Glasses - Napoleon Dynamite Costume Accessories
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is likewise satisfactory. Crisp but mostly unremarkable, it features several tastes of 1980s British punk rock (acts like The Jam, The Smiths, Morrissey, and Billy Bragg are more familiar to the late-Generation X leads than they will be to most viewers) and a restrained score by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Both sides of the DVD are equipped with the same two bonus features. First and most demanding is an audio commentary by director Tim Hamilton. He speaks about his debut feature with earnestness, apparent satisfaction, and a bit of humility. Far from groundbreaking, his cast/crew anecdotes and revelations are nonetheless enough to satiate the few who will be interested enough to listen. Just don't expect any talk about the atypical theatrical run.

Second and more inviting is a collection of four "additional" scenes (i.e. deleted ones) that run 6 minutes and 17 seconds. Two spend more time with Jeffrey and Nora, one has Jeffrey and Mert discussing their conflict over a buffet lunch, and the best one involves a Scrabble game between Jeffrey and Seymour (Eli Wallach).

The disc opens with an unexpected Casablanca anti-piracy promo plus trailers for Semi-Pro, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, Over Her Dead Body, and Get Smart.

The static menus recycle promotional character poses against loud colors with some score excerpts, while the insert-less keepcase features a similarly loud scheme with unremarkable imagery.

Mert and Jan's joyful dance doesn't seem to be well-received by Jeffrey. The most banal thread of "Mama's Boy" is the romantic comedy material between Jeffrey and Nora, whose joint liedown here leads to a different kind of joint.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though not good enough to make a fuss over its lack of a proper theatrical release, Mama's Boy is diverting enough for fans of the cast, particularly star Jon Heder, to find and rent. Warner's DVD is more destined for bargain bins and customer shrugs than cult success, but the fact remains that far worse films with less talented actors regularly enjoy better fates.

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Related Reviews:
The Cast of Mama's Boy:
Jon Heder: Blades of Glory Surf's Up | Jeff Daniels: The Lookout Away We Go 101 Dalmatians (1996)
Diane Keaton: Father of the Bride The Godfather Trilogy | Eli Wallach: The Moon-Spinners The Hoax New York, I Love You
Anna Faris: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs | Sarah Chalke: Scrubs: The Complete First Season

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Reviewed June 2, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Warner Bros. Pictures and 2008 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.