- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Because I Said So’

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 14 and older.

* (out of five stars)

Running time: 102 minutes

Common Sense review: The clumsy and bland “Because I Said So” sets up one basic joke — the obnoxious and interfering mother — and runs it into the ground.

Longtime single mother Daphne (Diane Keaton) is determined to marry off her three grown-up daughters, hoping they’ll avoid her own loneliness. The movie’s opening scenes show her successes with Maggie (Lauren Graham) and Mae (Piper Perabo), but poor Milly (Mandy Moore) just can’t seem to find the right guy.

The film suggests that the main reason Milly is still single is because Daphne is so pushy. She makes Milly self-conscious, worrying about her daughter’s outfits, mannerisms and snorty laugh. The truth — indicated by a heavy-handed montage — is that Milly and her mom are very much alike: They’re both caterers with a fondness for cake, they both eat pasta and drink red wine alone each night, and they both believe it’s their own fault they’re unmarried.

When Daphne sets up a series of meetings for Milly with young men she finds through the Internet, the movie again resorts to an awkward montage. The loser “dates” range from guys who sport tattoos, a dress and a turban to those who describe their medical conditions in detail.

Milly’s ideal date, in Daphne’s mind, is architect Jason (Tom Everett Scott), who seems controlling and possessive — much like Daphne. Just as Daphne sets up the date, another suitor appears in her daughter’s life, lounge guitarist-music teacher Johnny (Gabriel Macht).

Though it’s easy to see which man Milly prefers — especially when Johnny reveals that he’s the doting single father of a cute (if obnoxious) little boy — she has to grind through repeated scenes in which she argues with Daphne, convinces herself that Jason’s OK and talks over all of her dates and anxieties with her sisters.

Directed by Michael Lehmann in a way that might best be described as “disinterested,” “Because I Said So” includes so many cliches that it’s hard to keep count: the bad-driving scenes, the dog reaction shots, the falling-with-cake scenes, the inability-to-work-technology scenes (Daphne pulls up a porn site on her computer and can’t turn it off) and even the watching-old-movies scenes.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that children younger than 14 (even big Mandy Moore fans) probably won’t be interested in this flat, unoriginal romantic comedy. The film’s humor is based on a very tired stereotype: the aggressively interfering mother.

Families can discuss romantic comedies. How is this movie like other romantic comedies you’ve seen? Why do movies in this genre tend to follow the same pattern? Can you think of any examples of obvious “romantic comedy” elements (i.e., making Milly’s boyfriends so different that her choice seems obvious to viewers)? Families also can talk about overbearing parents. How can suggestions that are intended to be helpful end up hurting the person at whom they’re directed? Besides criticizing them, how else could Daphne encourage her daughters?

Sexual content: There are many scenes with either implied sex or explicit discussions about sex.

Language alert: Mild cursing plus attempted joke about “Italian for ‘late’ ” (“retardo”) and several sexual innuendoes.

Violence alert: Pratfalls (two involving cakes); a suggestion that a suicidal patient jumps out a window (cake falls on the patient’s head).

Social-behavior alert: A mother berates her adult daughter and interferes in her dating life; sisters withhold information; Milly cheats on both boyfriends; boyfriends are alternately scheming, angry and possessive; some drinking on social occasions.

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