Diane Keaton has finally completed her transformation from actress to cartoon character. Think about it: the black-white-and-red ensembles, the long gloves, the bow ties. And, in this unfunny romantic romp, a catchphrase: "because I said so."
Keaton, with the fashion sense of Minnie Mouse, is now relegated to one of the darkest corners of moviedom lame romantic comedies in which she can play either an overbearing mother or a sex-starved middle-aged woman. In the routine rom-com Because I Said So, she's a hollow version of both.
As Daphne, Keaton's a controlling single mom who has pushed her three grown daughters to find love, but neglected her own personal life. She's directing all of her energy into finding the right mate for the youngest and only unwed daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore). Daphne takes out an Internet ad for Milly, setting her up with an overachiever architect (Tom Everett Scott), who we clearly see from the get-go is a complete ass.
Milly, however, also lands a date with musician and single dad, Johnny (Gabriel Macht), who we clearly see is Mr. Right. Much of the movie revolves around Milly making up her mind between the two men, and Daphne getting over herself.
Is it more disappointing that the star of Annie Hall is now reduced to a caricature, or that director Michael Lehmann, who brought us the wicked fun of Heathers, hasn't been able to repeat in nearly 20 years?
Lehmann, whose post-Heathers credits include beauties like 40 Days and 40 Nights, manages to pull off very little that's clever or original. He struggles to negotiate territory inhabited by better Hollywood chick fare. When he tries for snappy, sisterly banter, it sounds like a cacophony despite the presence of master-banterer Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls fame. The cast just doesn't have the chemistry. And when he tries to deliver the kind of edgy, sexual dishing of a Sex in the City episode, the girl talk comes off so forced it's about as tantalizing as listening in on a girl-talk session with Laura Schlessinger.
Moore is about the only thing redeeming in Because I Said So. Having earned some cred with her cameos in HBO's Entourage and the ironic Saved!, it's unfortunate to see her wallowing in a shallow romantic comedy. She at least has a sweetness and vulnerability that makes her likable and down-to-earth, perfect for a romantic comedy protagonist.
But with Keaton sticking to what's become her overwrought and uniform performance, and Lehmann satisfied to wallow in chick-flick clichés and plot turns you see a mile off, it's obvious that all the charm from all the former pop-princesses in the world couldn't save Because I Said So.
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.