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December 13, 2011

Movie Review: Mother's Boys (1994)

Directed by Yves Simoneau

Reviewed by Greg Goodsell

With her tight, angry mouth, steely eyes, pointed, defiant chin and somewhat coltish manner there was no question that Jamie Lee Curtis could be anything less but the Final Girl. Curtis, the daughter of Janet Leigh would have never succumbed as easily to Norman Bates in the shower. One imagines Jamie pulling the knife out of Norman’s hand, penning his arm behind his back, forcing him to the bathroom floor and yelling “dressed just for me, huh?”

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It was only a matter of time before producers would consider cast Jamie as the full-on villainess in her own horror feature, and Mother’s Boys is the only film to treat her as such. Sadly, Curtis only appears in film projects sporadically today, doing chiefly voices for animated films. In was only in this stray offering did Jamie was able to shine malignantly as an ABJECT BITCH.

Curtis plays Jude, the wife of architect Peter Madigan (Peter Gallagher). Jude is still in the process of finding herself, so she gathers her things one day and heads out for the bright city lights – leaving Peter with their three young sons. The oh-so-rude Jude returns three long years later, saying to her estranged family, “Miss me?” Peter isn’t having any of it. Even Jude’s super-wealthy mother (Vanessa Redgrave) is dead set against the idea. The eldest of the Madigan sons, Kes (Luke Edwards), still smarting from an earlier abandonment from mom certainly doesn’t want any part of it. Furthermore, their dad is seeing the plucky Vice Principal of their school, Callie (Joanne Whalley) with matrimony on his mind. Common sense would dictate to Jude that it is time to move on – but never doubt a sociopath.

Jude begins to reinstate her influence with Kes after a series of meetings, which includes her proudly standing naked from her bubble bath to show him the C-section scar she endured to give birth to him. Manipulating the impressionable lad, Jude convinces Kes that Callie is out to destroy the sanctity of their family unit. Mother and son plot a special “game” to get Callie out of the picture … the film briefly derails in “rotten killer kid” territory and there is a cliff-hanging conclusion where the majority of the characters cling to a cliff. Kes has an awful lot of ‘splaining to do …

The fact that family law unfairly favors mothers, no matter how abusive or mentally they are has fueled such diverse films such as Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) and David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1980). Such a topic would hit a raw nerve with some viewers, but TV director Yves Simoneau takes great care in detaching the viewer from any such concerns. Beginning with a surreal opening credits sequence, the action takes place in a series of beautiful, dreamy locations far removed from anything one would encounter in real life. Curtis’ apartment, in particular, done in throbbing cobalt blues and art nouveau décor recalls the visual excesses of Dario Argento in Suspiria (1977). Mother’s Boys is intended as escapist fare, and for the most part succeeds.

In the film’s deficit are a bunch of a group of false scares worked into the story to give audiences a jolt here and there, none of it crucial to the story. An extremely mild R-rated film, one would hope that Simoneau take off the kid gloves and let us really have it. While Kes lives to see another day (not a major spoiler), it’s obvious he’s not going to walk away from all the chicanery he previously committed scot free, and it would have been somewhat more fitting if the audience got a taste of his ultimate fate. It would certainly be better than the cheap, ho-hum cliché blast from the horror horn that ends the movie.

Mother’s Boys can best be described as a milder version of Fatal Attraction (1986). You could do far worse.

(The version of this film for this review is included on the Miramax Psycho Killer Series, which includes Halloween: H2O, Halloween: Resurrection and Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Meyers. A double-sided DVD, there are no extras and only chapter stops.)

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