I should probably stop mentioning nuts, lest someone get the wrong idea, but My Mom’s New Boyfriend is another one of those movies that summons forth ever-surging levels of exasperation, making you first kind of slap and claw at your face in Stooges-esque fashion, and then eventually want to punch its makers in the balls.
The chief offending party here is writer-director George Gallo, writer on Midnight Run and Code Name: The Cleaner, and producer on Senior Skip Day, most recently. For My Mom’s New Boyfriend he fashions an idiotic roundelay — part caper flick, part middle-aged romance, part wheel-spinning comedy of familial zaniness. Returning from three years on assignment, FBI field agent Henry Durand (Colin Hanks) finds an unexpected problem — it seems his single mother Marty (Meg Ryan) has undergone a radical physical transformation, losing a bunch of weight and developing a dating life of her own. Now, Henry finds himself fending off midnight serenades from lovelorn Italian chefs and watching helplessly as Marty hops on the back of a college dropout’s motorcycle, all of which is enough to almost drive him into therapy. Things get worse, though, when Marty begins dating Tommy (Antonio Banderas), the FBI’s number one suspect in an international art theft ring. Now, Henry, with fiancée Emily (Selma Blair) in tow, is forced to spy on his own mother to foil a sophisticated crime.
Seemingly operating under the philosophy that screen wipes somehow in and of themselves translate into entertainment, Gallo trots out slapstick-y, placeholder physical gags (Tommy and Marty meeting through an accident involving a remote-controlled airplane, Henry returning home and not initially recognizing his sunbathing mother) in lieu of anything approaching substantive conversation. Hanks and Blair aren’t believable in their jobs, mainly because they’re given dialogue that makes them sound like Dawson’s Creek extras. Marginal credit is dolled out for actually avoiding the seemingly inevitable scene where Marty doesn’t believe her son’s eventually laid-bare claims about Tommy, and exclaims, “How dare you!” Yet if Gallo takes the general conceit into less broadly farcical territory than expected (apart from the bit with Enrico Colantoni’s spurned lover serially bellowing on the yard outdoors at night, which is just stupid), there’s no corresponding depth here. Everything is as one expects it, and even the most air-quote serious conflicts are played pat, sunny and on-the-sleeve by all except Hanks (laboring to convey tight-assedness), which makes the film’s third-act plot twist less a revelation than just something else at which to be irked.
Also, the elephant in the room has to be addressed — the Meg Ryan we once knew and loved, the perky gal who effortlessly conveyed the perfect balance of sexiness and cuteness, is long gone, like a turkey in the corn. The plasticized creature that we’re left with (above) is an unrecognizable commodity — phony and unnerving, driven by tics and a seemingly crippling lack of self-esteem. The narrative parallels about personal transformation here certainly don’t help matters, drawing attention to both her looks and the erosion of her carefree charm. Every act now is seemingly mimeographed and choreographed.
Housed in a regular Amray case, My Mom’s New Boyfriend is presented in the viewers’ choice of 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen or 1.33:1 full screen, with matching French and English language Dolby digital 5.1 audio tracks, and optional English, French, Spanish and Chinese subtitles. Apart from previews for Kabluey, Jessica Simpson’s Blonde Ambition, The Other Boleyn Girl, Prom Night and The Boondocks (a weird collection, really), the only supplemental bonus features are a 10-minute making-of featurette — in which Gallo compares his movie to a classic screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, and says that there are “a lot of Blake Edwards bits” in the film — and a clutch of eight deleted scenes running 10 minutes in total, including (sigh) more Colantoni yard-sobbing. For a clip from the film, click here. D (Movie) C- (Disc)