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Albert Brooks is one of many Hollywood folk who wears three hats. He writes and directs his own screenplays. He can act. He can also look at the most mundane situations and find riotous humor in them.
Brooks doesn't write jokes per se. He writes dialogue and situations that lead to a punch line. Once he hits the mark, he keeps coming back at it from every direction he can think of. When he does it badly, the gags get tired real fast. When he does it well, you get Defending Your Life, Brooks' last triple-threat outing back in 1991. The film on the block in this review is Mother, co-starring Debbie Reynolds. In her heyday, Reynolds was a major star of musical film (Singing in the Rain) and television. Her image was a bit squeaky clean, which is why you may hear hysterical laughter from any old fogeys in your audience when she utters an obscenity. Obscenity can put you on the fast track towards Oscar®, count on it. There is more that goes completely against character, but I won't spoil it.
What makes Brooks' stock nebbish character different from, say, early Woody Allen-style nebbish is that Brooks' characters are all successful, i.e. Brooks always gets the good looking girls. As Mother begins, John Henderson (Brooks) is finalizing his second divorce to a very pretty blonde woman who brought to the marriage all the nice furniture. As a writer he does okay, but he's no Stephen King. In short, his life sucks. His relationships suck. Over and over again. He is 40 years old and has no children. His job isn't providing the kind of satisfaction (money) that his younger, sports agent brother, Jeff (Rob Morrow), is enjoying. Jeff also has a wife and kids, which makes him pick of the litter to his mom, Beatrice (Reynolds).
Brooks decides that all of his problems stem from a root problem with his mother, so he drives 400 miles and moves back into his old room. The actual restoration of his room leads to a number of site gags which I'm not going to spoil.
I will suggest, though, that if you are beginning to feel childless and look back at high school as the best years of your life, you are not going to like a good hunk of Mother. Too bad, 'cuz it's really funny. Onwards . . .
While Brooks tackles such pithy topics as vegetarianism and peanut butter as jumping off points, John takes Beatrice out on the town, seeking to get her to break what he perceives are her set-in-her-way ways. His perceptions are way off the mark, but those gags involve Reynolds, and I've hinted at 'em, but won't give 'em away.
For a lot of people Albert Brooks is an acquired taste. It's good Brooks, though not the kind of sure thing you'd choose to use to introduce a friend. Reynolds is delightful.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mother, he would have paid . . .
Good luck in February, Debbie.
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