I'm not part of its target audience, so maybe it isn't fair for me to say "Mumford" sucked more than a Swedish penis enlarger in a YMCA men's room. Maybe we should get the opinion of a group of retarded, Mary Kay-selling soccer moms.
"Mumford" is feel-good bullshit for the cocksuckers who believe "empowering" self-help books have the answers to everything. It is for people who really believe men are from Mars and women are from Venus, that their problems are easily classified and solved with books on tape, and that their Franklin Day Planners have changed their lives. It is not for those of us who believe we are from the bloody wombs of our mothers, and that our problems are self-created and likely to haunt us our entire lives.
Loren Dean is a psychologist named Mumford in the town of Mumford. The name coincidence is just the first of many things just too fucking cutesy and pat. He has been in town for a few months, we are told, and he is already the most popular shrink in town. He has a homey way of listening to people and letting them figure out their own problems.
The town is practically owned by Jason Lee, woefully miscast as a modem tycoon, who wants a friend and recruits Dean to help him. Other patients include a depressed rich housewife whose husband is more interested in business than her, a slutty teen who has self-image problems, a fat pharmacist with an overripe imagination, a non-descript lady (Hope Davis) with some sort of fatigue syndrome whom he falls in love with. Somehow, Dean's comatose acting helps them all.
Then, it is revealed, during an overlong and still unconvincing flashback, that Dean is actually a former drug-addict IRS investigator who has forged his credentials in order to start a new life. Dean hides this fact as he plays matchmaker, solving everyone's problems by pairing them off with each other. Eventually, the townspeople learn of Dean's history. Of course, instead of being angry, they support him, and he ends up winning the tired heart of the chronic-fatigue girl. The only thing missing at the end is a court scene where all Dean's patients stand up and tell the judge what a great guy he is. It happens, it just isn't shown.
"Mumford" is nearly two grueling hours long. The first hour goes through all the machinations required for the revelations and surprises of the second half. The second half is like putting your knuckle in a vise and slowly tightening it. It hurts, and it keeps hurting worse until your knuckle shatters. As you nurse that bloody finger (or walk out of the theater), you think, I knew that was gonna hurt like a bitch as soon as I started, so why didn't I just stop?
The comedy is based on the theory that good psychology is really just about being a good listener. That's pure fucking horseshit, hot and stinky as if it just came out of the horse's ass. And even if the theory was true, this movie does it no favors by making everything wrap up so fucking simply and neatly. It takes eight stories, no matter how hastily or unconvincingly they are slapped onscreen, and slams them into each other with the subtlety of Chrysler Imperials at a demolition derby.
The characters are uniformly unconvincing in their simplicity and obviousness. Jason Lee's insistence that we believe he is youthful by saying "Far out" stands out as the lowest gimmick used by writer-director Lawrence Kasdan. But, Fatty Pharmacist's (Pruitt Taylor Vince) problem fantasizing and the textbook depression of the unhappy housewife who buys too much shit (Mary McDonnell) also carry the sheen of cheap synthetic material. Kasdan seems so hellbent on making a pretty ending that he says to hell with real characterizations, I'll just bend these figments to my will.
In the movie "True Stories," (1986, Four Fingers) there is a woman who goes through life refusing to allow sadness. She won't acknowledge its existence, because doing so means she has to accept sadness herself. "Mumford" is exactly like that woman. It's all forced, synthetic sunshine and light. There are no real problems in this world, only the kinds that boomers dream about. And the town is where the SUV-driving, cookie-cutter assholes in your neighborhood want to open a bed and breakfast. It's a place I would have loved to see David Lynch get a hold of. He would have dug deep exposed all the creepy perversity that lies somewhere beyond Kasdan's insipid, surface-level world.
If you fall for the brand of shit that Kasdan is slinging, the cure for every problem is to find a good man or woman and fall in love. Luckily, Mumford has eight people with problems, and they conveniently make four couples with no problems. My own theory is that when fucked-up people get together, they create more problems, not fewer. They create fetal alcohol syndrome babies, divorce proceedings, drug addictions, domestic violence, affairs, nasty gossip, suicides and stalking cases that clog the American courts. My theory is based on 12 years of Friday nights at the Arvada Tavern. I bet Mr. Kasdan's research isn't based on anything as real as that.
Loren Dean gets low marks for his perfectly boring acting job as Doctor Mumford. Maybe he thought real acting would upset Kasdan's perfect world. Jason Lee is about as believable as a nerdy, loner computer guru as Bill Gates would be as a skateboarding heartthrob. Overall, the acting is flatter than Kansas, and the only person who gets out alive is Martin Short as a sleazy criminal lawyer. That's because his role is brief and plays it as camp.
I give the whole experience two fingers. It was worse than plucking pubic hair, but not as bad as reading a Stephen Covey book.
Oh, a fond farewell to my movie-going pal Slappy. He is leaving the midwest and
moving to fancy-pants San Francisco for some girl. Now, who will
walk out of shit like "Mumford" and wait for me in
the lobby? Go to his
site and wish him well.