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Laramie Movie Scope:
Drowning Mona

A comedy so laid-back it's almost comatose

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 13, 2000 -- "Drowning Mona" is a comedy project that probably looked good on paper, but on film it never quite gets going.

There's plenty of talent involved, with Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis, and the idea isn't bad. It's a murder mystery with a thousand suspects because the murder victim was the meanest woman in town.

One of the problems with the film is DeVito's role of Chief Wyatt Rash (he last appeared in "Man on the Moon"). He plays the straight man. That does not take advantage of his comic energy. He's the only guy in town, it appears, who has a brain in his head. It is up to him to solve the crime, because the rest of his Keystone Cops squad isn't up to it.

Campbell (who appeared in the "Scream" movies) plays Ellen Rash, the chief's daughter. She is about to be married to Bobby Calzone (Casey Affleck of "200 Cigarettes"). Calzone appears to be on tranquilizers all the time. His expression never changes. Calzone is in business with the deceased Mona Dearley's son, the one-handed Jeff Dearly (Marcus Thomas of "Cowboy up"), who appears to be even stupider than Calzone.

Mona and Jeff have been driving Calzone crazy with their aggressive and violent behavior, so he's a suspect in the murder, and so is Mona's widow, Phil Dearly (William Fichtner of "Go"), a slug of a man who can't stand up to Mona, but does have a secret affair going on. There's also Rona Mace (played by Jamie Lee Curtis of "Halloween H20"), a waitress at a local diner, who turns out to be in the middle of everything. Everyone in town hated Mona, even her own family, so there are plenty of suspects.

There are several running gags in the film. One of the them is Yugos, the car Dan Aykroyd once mockingly said represented "the cutting edge of Serbo-Croation technology." The town, Verplank, New York, was a test-market for Yugos in 1985. They are everywhere (like Yugos really last this long). Everybody drives Yugos. Then there's the running gag about how Jeff Dearly lost his hand. About six different versions are told, all involving beer. The running gags, like the rest of the film, are mildly amusing. It is a very low-energy comedy. The energy level is so low it's like everyone is on tranquilizers for most of the film. The town is like Mayberry, except there is no Don Knotts to pump up the energy level.

Near the end of the film there is one funny scene where everybody hops into their Yugos to go screaming down the road to the cemetery. It is like an old Keystone cops gag. Now that scene had a little life to it. The scene was also funny because it shows some insight into the behavior of people in a small town. Nobody wants to miss anything. The movie could have used more scenes like that. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2000 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]