Story Highlights• "Because I Said So" unamusing romantic comedy
• Diane Keaton is meddling mother trying to marry off daughter
• Movie has terrible script and overly broad performances
By Tom Charity
Special to CNN
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(CNN) -- "What do women want?" Mel Gibson demanded, a few seasons back.
Apparently -- at least as far as Hollywood is concerned -- they want trite romantic comedies like this one, contemporary fairytales where every little princess will eventually find her perfect prince, even if she has to kiss a few frogs along the way.
Written by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson, "Because I Said So" begins ceremoniously at a couple of weddings. With Maggie (Lauren Graham) and Mae (Piper Perabo) duly married off, uber-mom Daphne (Diane Keaton) can finally devote all her attentions to silly Milly (Mandy Moore), who's a worry, what with her auto-destructive dating record and a nervous habit of giggling inanely whenever a man is within chatting distance.
She may have three daughters, but for the purposes of the movie Daphne is a cautionary singleton (dad went AWOL in some unspecified period of ancient history and stays that way). The last thing she wants is for any girl of hers to end up the same way: alone and turning 60.
So no matter that Milly appears to be running her own company (a catering firm with a big line in wedding cakes), and forget for a minute that Mandy Moore is, what? All of 22 years old? It is Daphne's mission to usher her to wedded bliss before the fade-out.
Taking matchmaking into her own hands, she places the world's longest personals ad on her daughter's behalf, and interviews the surprisingly numerous but "laughably" unsuitable respondents at a swanky hotel dining room.
Johnny (Gabriel Macht) watches this process play out from the bandstand (he's a musician), and coolly cribs Milly's number. But Daphne has her heart set on Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a disconcertingly charming, handsome and successful architect.
You see where this is going. The film stakes its credibility on pitching for Johnny, the bohemian single parent with a fondness for waistcoats, tattoos and an adorably voluble brat in tow ("You've got a vagina," is the youngster's running gag). But it never begins to question Daphne's contention that there is no hope of happiness outside the family union. Needless to say, there's a fella waiting in the wings for her too.
Acting in a reality vacuum, Diane Keaton defaults to a manic grin and waves her hands about a lot (when she's really gone, she waves her feet about too). Something's gotta give, indeed, and you wonder if a kindly director might suggest a Valium before she does herself serious injury. Director Michael Lehmann, on the other hand, throws a cream cake in her face.
In one scene, poor Mandy Moore has to strip off her slip in the middle of the street then make-cute with a balloon stuck to her statically charged rear end. Maybe Katharine Hepburn could have carried that off, but Mandy just looks exposed.
In another intimate moment, she has to explain the big O to her uncomprehending mom. "It's ... toe curling," she gushes, curling her toes and waving her hands about.
In truth, if only she could stop dropping things, the personably innocuous Moore would seem a better bet for the architect.
Sidelined as the big sis, "Gilmore Girls' " Lauren Graham shows enough spunk to make you wish the movie was about her instead.
We all know that feminism never really happened (not in movies like this, anyway), but what makes this capitulation so depressing is that Lehmann made his name with a couple of genuinely funny and subversive satires, "Heathers" and "Meet the Applegates."
The system hasn't just tamed him, he may as well be a pod person -- or a chameleon, like the South American invertebrates who adopt all too easily to suburban consumerism in "Applegates."
Recycling every cliche in the rom-com handbook, it's clear from the very first that Lehmann has sacrificed his characters on the altar of sappy endings. What a waste -- for everybody.
"Because I Said So" runs 102 minutes and is rated PG-13. What does EW think? Click here.
Diane Keaton is a mother determined to marry off her youngest daughter (Mandy Moore) in "Because I Said So."
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