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IN SHORT: A gentle, genial comedy for post teens. [Rated [R] , 101 minutes]
Consider the story of Dr. Michael Mumford, Ph.D (Loren Dean). He's the new shrink in a town also named Mumford whose two other shrinks (one a real doctor, one a fake) have seen their formerly robust practices shrivel. The town also has a self-absorbed, ego-maniacal attorney named Lionel Dillard (Martin Short), one of the few people willing and able to pay the new doc cold hard cash for an hour of mental deconstruction, whose patronage is refused ('cuz Doc Mumford can't stand jerks -- a more colorful epithet is used, several times by different characters in Mumford but I've got standards to uphold and parents that would complain if I used the "a" word. So I won't). Lessee, one spurned lawyer. Two headcases with shrinking practices. Add 'em all up and . . . can we spell "revenge"?
Oh, let's not and say we did. The characters, and the problems, that writer director Lawrence Kasdan has created are entirely ordinary and normal. Given that this story revolves around a psychologist, that means a lot of talk. A lot of ordinary and normal talk would be hailed as "realistic" on the arthouse circuit, but would strike most folk as tedious -- unless the writer knew exactly what he was doing, which Kasdan does (as he has demonstrated both solo and with partners in The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist and a couple of action flicks called Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars episodes Five and Six). It's a great talent to find interesting things among average people and while there is a twist or two towards the unusual, the problems of the people found here are normal.
Formerly a logging town, Mumford is now dependent on Panda Modems, run by the richest man in town, Skip Skipperton (Jason Lee). Being the sole provider for a town of several thousand yields an problem for Skip. He can't be seen with a shrink, 'cuz that appearance problem would cause trouble for the company and the town. So he hires Mumford to be his "friend," to discuss intimacy problems -- Skip needs a companion more interesting than the body parts he's working on down in the lab. You'll discover the secret of that in the flick.
As for the other customers, there's a fat pharmacist (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who lost his wife and family due to fantasies straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel; a wife (Mary McDonnell) who catalog shops incessantly as a way of compensating for the lack of husbandly attention (Ted Danson is the louse); the divorcee with chronic fatigue syndrome (Hope Davis) who makes the doctor's heart go all thumpa thumpa and whose nasty old witch of a mom (Dana Ivey) hates the doc from the word go.
All of the dirt about the good doctor's patients can be had straight from the horse's mouth, if you ask him the right question at the right time. Which is what local cafe owner Lily (Alfre Woodard, in a role that marks her as the sanest person in town) manages to do right at the top of the flick. What's that you say? A doctor is supposed to keep those clinical confessions to himself? Absolutely correct a mundo.
But, as we know from the television commercial, Dr. Mumford ain't no doc. Not even a little. Only Robert Stack can help sort out the unsolved mystery of who Michael Mumford really is, and getting there is a very pleasant ride where the law is savagely broken and a town is fully healed.
Sorry about that. Kasdan writes well. I get inspired. Shame on me. Mumford is a cut above your average grown up dateflick. It may be a tad too nice for those Crankier than I -- Martin Short's character is as close to an "edge" as the script gets, and that's not much. Mumford offers a fine time in the dark and is recommended.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mumford, he would have paid...
This one's definitely for us grownups (cuz Cranky at 15 would've been bored silly by all the talk. We didn't appreciate things like character back in them halcyon days of pimplehood)
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