Saturday, January 13, 2007

Movie Review: Drowning Mona 3 ½ Stars

Wait a minute…a comedy that’s actually funny? A funny comedy with fleshed-out characters? A funny character-driven comedy with a compelling story? A funny character-driven and story-driven comedy with solid performances from the entire cast?

I was shocked myself. But, there it was, up on the screen, jokes aplenty.

Celebrated indie director, Nick Gomez (Laws of Gravity, Illtown) massages Peter Steinfeld’s tight script into the bust-a-gut funny Drowning Mona, a murder-in-a-small-town mystery starring Danny Devito, Bette Midler, Jamie Lee Curtis, William Fichtner, Neve Campbell and the funny Affleck, Casey.

Midler is the titular Mona Dearly, a contemptible, spiteful, and mean drunk whose brakes suddenly fail on her, plummeting her and her Yugo into the muddy river below. Devito is Wyatt Rash, the chief-of-police in Verplank, New York (which happens to be the town picked by Yugo to test-marketing their ill-fated automotive effort.) Investigating Mona’s death, Wyatt realizes that everybody in town had a motive, if not a desire, for killing Mona Dearly. Including his son-in-law-to-be, Bobby Calzone (Affleck), who is partners with Mona’s dim-witted, one-handed son, Phil (Fichtner) in a landscaping business.

Neither Phil nor his father Jeff (Marcus Thomas) are too distraught over Mona’s death; Phil is more concerned with kicking his affair with local waitress Rona (Curtis) into high gear, and Phil is focused on continuing his work in the field of beer consumption. In fact, the only person in town who seems to be upset is Ellen (Campbell), Wyatt’s daughter, whose impending nuptials have her at wits end.

Drowning Mona is an exceptional film, a true departure from latter-day “comedies” that mistake cute for funny. If the mavericks continue to make movies like this and Election and Rushmore, comedy may survive.

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