The writer has deposited these two gentle men in our crazy chaos to remind us that we live now in a world where no one listens, everyone has a secret life, and we all need second chances.
The unpredictable Lawrence Kasdan has written and directed a movie about a gentle fellow reinventing himself in the frenzied self-absorption of American life. To teach a lesson to the tune of laughter is a good trick, and Mr. Kasdan has managed it well.
Mumford (Loren Dean) wanders into the small town whose name he bears and sets up practice as a therapist. In the presence of his expressionless face, townsfolk who have never revealed their troubles to anyone, much less a professional, find the path to Mumford's office.
There lies the underpinning of the tale: Mumford is not a professional. He sees patients at places of their choosing, reveals their names to others when it can help, and accepts their dinner invitations. The truth of it is that he has never been to graduate school. Mumford, Ph.D., as he reveals early on, is simply a man looking for a new identity and a new life.
His new life includes taking plenty of time to absorb the beauty of the landscape as he pursues a health regime based on running. When he's not sitting on a hillside drinking from his water bottle and being grateful, he listens to the townspeople who have started asking his advice-literally on the run, or in the street. Mumford says very little of substance, no judgement or advice, just a small clue here or there--but, boy, does he know how to listen. We all need a Mumford.
Our laughter ripples around the overdrawn characters Kasdan has written as potshots at contemporary targets: a pretentious stockbroker, a pair of neurotic therapists, a two-faced lawyer, and several dysfunctional families. As these puffed-up types cause trouble for the people around them, Kasdan extends a warm hand to an alienated teenager, a love-starved wife, a lonely cafe owner, and a young woman worn into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome--disease of the moment--by family stress. In a good supporting cast, Alfre Woodard stands out in a fine characterization as Lily, the cafe owner.
Mr. Kasdan saves his best for the nerdy Skip Skiperton (Jason Lee), multibillionaire founder of a tech company. Still a passionate skateboarder, Skip is the same shy and lonely kid he was before his big idea condemned him to a world of sycophants. Jason Lee makes Skip thoroughly endearing--a thirty-something tycoon of the 90s still wrapped in earnest innocence as he tries to handle the crazy new world he has helped create.
In genuine friendship, Skip and Mumford explore what's on Mr. Kasdan's mind. The writer has deposited these two gentle men in our crazy chaos to remind us that we live now in a world where no one listens, everyone has a secret life, and we all need second chances. If you are annoyed that Mr. Kasdan has tied up all the stories neatly, fairy tale-style, remember that he is telling us that love, wherever you find it, is the cure.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Touchstone Pictures
Rating : R
Running time : 1h36m
Copyright (c) Illusion
Return to Ellis Home Page