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(2007) (Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore) (PG-13)

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Dramedy: A well-meaning but meddlesome mother tries to set up her adult daughter with what she believes is the perfect man for her.
Daphne Wilder (DIANE KEATON) has raised her three daughters -- Maggie (LAUREN GRAHAM), Mae (PIPER PERABO) and Milly (MANDY MOORE) -- into adulthood, but that doesn't mean she wants to or can stop being their mom. That's particularly true regarding caterer Milly who hasn't had much luck with guys.

Accordingly and without Milly's knowledge, Daphne places a classified ad to try to find a life-mate for her, and then proceeds to interview those who reply. In her opinion, architect Jason (TOM EVERETT SCOTT) seems the perfect choice, but the whole process amuses bystander Johnny (GABRIEL MACHT), a guitar player and teacher who's raising young son Lionel (TY PANITZ) while living with his own father, Joe (STEPHEN COLLINS).

Nevertheless, he decides to go out with Milly, as does Jason, causing her to think her fortunes have suddenly changed. Unable to stop meddling, Daphne tries to convince Milly that Jason is the best choice, eventually causing a falling out between the mother and daughter. As her sisters try to help out, Milly must decide what's best for her.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
In the arsenal of parental dealings with demanding children who can be quite persistent in wanting something, the most feared but respected WMD (Weapon of Motherly Denial) is the simple but authoritative response, "Because I said so." Even if it doesn't always halt their insistence of getting or being allowed to do something -- "But [insert friend or sibling's name] gets to [insert desired activity or object]" -- it certainly lets them know the wall has been set and won't be moved.

Of course, in such cases, many kids think their parents are pigheaded or just wrong, which leads to animosity between them, especially during the teen years. Things usually get better once the kids have figuratively and literally flown the coop, but that doesn't stop parents -- and especially mothers -- from continuing to worry about them and second-guess the decisions their grown children make.

When such overprotective, busybody parenting doesn't let up, it can be a source of irritation for the kids, something they just laugh off, or both. In the romantic comedy, "Because I Said So," such a mother and her actions unfortunately act only as the former, with very little successful humor originating from the resultant strife.

And that's despite (but also because of) the film's desperate attempts to be funny. In it, Diane Keaton plays the overbearing mother who thinks she has the best intentions for her adult girls, especially regarding the one embodied by Mandy Moore. She plays a caterer with a lousy track record when it comes to guys, so like she probably did when Milly was a young kid with few friends, Daphne decides to take matters into her own hands and find the right guy for her.

With the proper deft touch, it's possible such a setup and resultant developments could have been funny, or even hilarious. But director Michael Lehmann (who once helmed the darkly humorous "Heathers") -- who works from a heavily clichéd script by Karen Leigh Hopkins & Jessie Nelson - force-feeds the humor, touchy-feely moments, and standard rom-com conventions in such an obvious manner that the film ends up being just as irritating as Keaton's over-the-top, nails down a blackboard performance that's arguably her worst. If you thought her crying jags in "Something's Gotta Give" were forced and bad (as did yours truly), you ain't seen nothing yet.

While another reviewer and I usually count musical montages in any films of this genre, we should have been noting all of the broadly played conventions instead. Among them are the group singing moments (especially of the mother-daughter variety) and vintage songs on the soundtrack, while characters watch clips from an old movie on TV.

Then there are the dog reaction shots to what the "silly" humans are doing (when not humping an inanimate object), slapstick material (the cake in the face is the highlight here), the baby boomer who's inept with technology, the "wacky" foreign characters, and much, much more.

It's so bad that it nearly feels as if a screenwriting program spit out the script, throwing in every cliché and contrivance in its database at the proper, predetermined moments that are supposedly designed for maximum comedic or heartfelt effect. Nevertheless, they pale in comparison to Keaton's performance that's so strained you might forget her better work much earlier in her long career.

Had she or the filmmakers been able to make the character endearing in some fashion, or better yet, funny, one might have been able to more easily swallow her demeanor and actions. Without that, she comes off as an obnoxious and unwelcome cinematic creation where late in the game explanations about her behavior ("When does a mother stop mothering?") don't make any difference in terms of making her sympathetic.

As a result and simply by default, we feel bad for Moore's character as well as, but to a lesser extent, her siblings played by Piper Perabo and Lauren Graham (who don't get enough screen time or worthy material to warrant their presence over other actresses who probably could have used the work). While Moore's character is also given annoying habits (the snort laugh and the tendency to ramble when opening her mouth), they're considerably toned down compared to Keaton's.

Even so, the filmmakers also bungle her story about simultaneously dating two guys (played by Gabriel Macht and Tom Everett Scott) after a long dry spell with men. There's never any doubt about what's going to occur or who the best is for her. At least Moore has a palpable screen presence that makes her fairly easy to watch, but that doesn't amount to much when so much else is wrong with the project.

Paralleling the movie's protagonist, the filmmakers come off feeling like an overbearing mother telling her children (the viewers) how to feel and react, rather than letting them do that themselves. Without the proverbial spoonful of sugar, their "medicine" is nothing but bitter when it goes down. Moreover, it will likely induce the gag reflex, especially in men or those who simply don't like forced, contrived, broadly played, or poorly executed romantic comedies. If that defines you, I'd suggest you give this one a pass. Why? "Because I Said So," which rates as just a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed January 30, 2007 / Posted February 2, 2007

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