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Mama's Boy (2007)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 6/3/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/1/2008

One can site several instances of what Hollywood calls synergy, but what most people would call very unusual timing or even plagiarism. This occurs when two movies with very similar plots are released very close to one another. Armageddon vs. Deep Impact. Antz vs. A Bugís Life. Volcano vs. Danteís Peak. The list goes on and on. But, what about two movies with similar plots which were filmed and then not released? First, we had Mr. Woodcock, which was shot in 2005 and (despite the fact that the trailer was on HD-Net every day) wasnít released until late 2007. The very similarly themed Mamaís Boy was filmed in 2006 and (according to the trailer) was planned for a release at Thanksgiving in 2007. But, that didnít happen and the movieís finally coming to DVD. Was Warner justified in holding the movie?

John Heder stars in Mamaís Boy as Jeffrey Manus, a 29-year old man who still lives at home with his mother, Jan (Diane Keaton). Jeffreyís father died when he was quite young, and heís formed quite a bond with his mom. Despite aspirations of being an astronomer, Jeffrey spends his time working in a book store (for a friend of his late fatherís) and doing planned activities with his mother. (He also takes time out to play adventure fantasies with his friends.) This all changes when his mother meets motivational speaker Mert Rosenbloom (Jeff Daniels) and the two begin to date. At first, Jeffrey is angry that his mother is blowing off their weekly rituals, but when it becomes clear that Jan and Mert are serious, Jeffrey decides that he must put a stop to their relationship. Along the way, he meets coffee shop employee Nora (Anna Faris), and despite the fact that Nora is actually attracted to Jeffrey, he will stop at nothing to ďsaveĒ his mother.

Letís play detective and see if we can figure out why Mamaís Boy missed its theatrical release window and went directly to DVD. First of all, the movie may have been too reminiscent of other films. One half of the filmís premise resembles Failure to Launch, which was a hit in 2006. Both films feature men who refuse to leave home and get their own place. (Although, in that film, Matthew McConaugheyís character was more lazy than mal-adjusted.) The latter half of the story is in line with the aforementioned Mr. Woodcock which came and went from theaters in late 2007. Both films deal with a young man who doesnít approve of the man that their widowed mother is dating and initiate a battle of wills with the older man. In Mr. Woodcock, Seann William Scott is trying to save his mother from his old nemesis, a gym teacher. In Mamaís Boy, Jeffery is simply being selfish.

Which leads us to our second point: Jeffrey isnít a very likable character. The idea of a 29-year old who refuses to leave home because of the ties with his mother should, in most films, either make the audience laugh or make them feel sorry for the character. Here, we donít get either of those as Jeffery is such a jerk. Iím sure that Jon Heder (on some level) wants to distance himself from his character from Napoleon Dynamite, but Jeffrey shares many traits with that nerdy icon. Both seem very angry for no apparent reason, shun the attention/affection of others, have superior attitudes, and apparently have no control over their emotions. Only those who havenít seen Napoleon Dynamite wonít be reminded of that character when Jeffrey yells at his mother or poo-poos Noraís taste in music. (Mamaís Boy also shows Hederís somewhat limited acting range, as he sounds as if heís reading the dialogue at times.)

However, a lack of originality or a resemblance to another film arenít Mamaís Boyís biggest problems. No, the main issue with this film is that itís simply bland and flat. First-time director Tim Hamilton has assembled a talented cast here, who have all appeared in some funny movies, but he canít muster that slightest amount of energy out of the movie. The jokes fall flat and even the simplest scenes seem to drag on. Old pros Keaton and Daniels are clearly trying to inject some life into the movie, but their scenes donít go anywhere. It was a mistake having Anna Faris play such a low-key character, as her natural energy is sorely missed.

Mamaís Boy presents an odd combination of the recipe for success and disaster. The filmís premise is somewhat tired, but the audience has the hope that the familiar cast can bring it to life. Unfortunately, they canít. The movie isnít funny and the main character is unlikable. Just as Jeffrey doesnít want to leave home, donít bother going out to get this one.

Mamaís Boy clings to the apron strings of DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The DVD contains widescreen and full-screen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 (?) and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, as the image does show a slight amount of grain in the daytime scenes. The picture shows no defects from the source material. Colors are good and the image is never overly bright or dark. Some shots show a bit of noise, but otherwise the transfer is stable. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers solid stereo effects, and the in-film musical cues sound very nice as they fill the front and rear channels. Being a light comedy, there arenít many opportunities for subwoofer effects here.

The Mama's Boy DVD contains only two extra features. The first is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tim Hamilton. Despite some slight pauses, Hamilton speaks throughout the film and most of his comments are scene-specific. He never gets too technical and speaks mainly about the actors and the locations. He always takes the time to point out the musical cues in the film and how they reflect the action. The other extra is a series of ADDITIONAL SCENES which runs about 6 minutes. The four scenes are truly deleted scenes and not simply extra seconds tacked onto a moment from the movie. The scenes don't add much to the film, but two of them bridge the gap between plot points in the movie and the last one has a funny line.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long