Smother Movie Review
Smother is a catastrophic train wreck that rightfully abandoned any hope of being released theatrically, but isn't even a solid bet for mindless entertainment in its final destination on video store shelves. The entire movie reminds me of one of those Saturday Night Live sketches centered on a character with a very uncomfortable one-note quirk, like "Massive Head Wound Harry" or "Debbie Downer." This film could have been titled Madcap Marilyn, and the title would have fit the material, but the movie still would have sucked.
The plot is like an assembly line explosion at the Bad Idea Factory: Dax Shepard plays Noah, a recently-fired physical therapist who wants to change his luck by starting his own practice. Noah is married to Clare (Tyler), whose only discernible personality trait is that she wants a baby. Marilyn (Keaton) is Noah's mother, and she is spastic, zany, and clingy in the same way most Diane Keaton characters are, only this time the character doesn't come off as endearing as it does in a Woody Allen or Nancy Meyers movie. Marilyn has left her husband because they don't like each other anymore, and she has decided to live with her son until she discovers what she's going to do with her life. But Noah already has so much going on, and having his overbearing mother along for the ride is just too much! She's "smothering" him, you see? She also travels with a troupe of dogs that run around and soil the furniture. Comic gold, right?
What any of these plot threads has to do with one another, or if any of them even work on their own, is beside the point -- the movie's only two purposes are to turn Keaton into as annoying a character as possible, and to squeeze awkward laughs out of situations that are not funny. Mike White shows up in not merely a thankless, but also inexplicable and unnecessary, role as Tyler's cousin, who does nothing other than sit around writing a terrible screenplay. Shepard takes a job at a carpet store, where the boss makes sexual undulations behind unsuspecting geriatric female customers. There's also a really nasty string of scenes involving Noah's attempts to kill his sperm so he won't impregnate his wife, which then lead to scenes where Tyler struts out in various forms of undress, only to be turned down by a whiny guy who is much less attractive than she is.
Smother is another tiresome example of a comedy so magnificently miscalculated that it thinks laughs are created simply by putting off-kilter characters in painful situations. What director Vince Di Meglio and co-writer Tim Rasmussen fail to realize is that off-kilter without some sort of humorous or ironic attitude is not funny... it's just uncomfortable. This movie is all sorts of uncomfortable, from its story to its characters to its unseemly obsession with immature potty humor.
On a similar note, it is shocking that this film -- with its coarse language and seedy sex jokes -- garnered a PG-13 rating. Based on the fact that there are certain instances where tamer lines have been sloppily dubbed in over the coarser originals, it seems that the film first intended to cash in on the Apatow Era of raunchy comedies, and the studio then neutered it down to an inappropriate PG-13 in order to sell a few extra DVDs. Or maybe the MPAA figured that no rating would be more appropriate if the filmmakers treated the shock humor as if they were 13 themselves.
Needs chocolate syrup.