|Volume 93, Issue 19
Thursday, September 30, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Mumford a prescription for fun
Photo by Gemma Lamana
I REALLY DON'T THINK THE DANCING, TRI-NIPPLED MAN WEARING THE PINK BIKINI IN MY DREAM MEANT THAT. Sophie (Hope Davis) gets some no-nonsense advice from psychologist Dr. Mumford (Loren Dean) in the new romantic comedy Mumford.
By Luke Rundle
The field of psychiatry has always been regarded with a great deal of skepticism. At the very least, the concept of delving into a person's innermost thoughts and feelings would require a wealth of knowledge, plus a trained hand to implement this knowledge correctly. So what if the mental surgeon in question has no formal training, no knowledge on the subject and is an utter fraud? Is just being a good listener enough?
This is precisely the problem faced by the characters in Mumford, a motley crew suffering from a variety of mental maladies and character flaws, who seem to need a miracle worker. This messiah comes in the form of Michael Mumford (Loren Dean), a shrink from the city.
Mumford establishes a burgeoning practice with the townsfolk, who are drawn to his unconventional techniques. He is even paid regular visits from the town's other psychologist, who enjoys Mumford's wonderfully simple methodology.
However, Mumford has a wickedly dark secret he has never graduated from of any school of psychology. As his questionable background begins to surface to the rest of the townspeople, Mumford must attempt to fix the problems of the town's biggest head case himself.
While relative newcomer Dean gives a respectable performance as the good-hearted scoundrel Mumford, it is the intriguing townsfolk who give the movie its wealth of humour. Director Lawrence Kasdan conducts Mumford's stellar supporting cast with his usual flair and the end product shows the result of his handiwork.
From Martin Short's slimy lawyer who can't leave his court persona in therapy, to David Paymer's psychologist in search of counselling, every member of the supporting ensemble is complete enough to stand alone during their scenes.
The only complaint one could make about the film is that Mumford's running time seems to be dreadfully inadequate. With a supporting cast this talented, no matter how well Kasdan distributes the screen time, it is spread woefully thin. Accomplished actresses Mary McDonnell and Alfre Woodard are too talented to be relegated to the short snippets of screen time they are forced to work with and one of Ted Danson's better performances as an insensitive investment banker is concentrated into one series of short scenes. Lastly, Jason Lee, the man who introduced the term "stinkpalm" from his Mallrats performance into modern society, plays a quirky billionaire in a limited role which doesn't properly exploit his abilities.
However, these are truly small problems which should not detract from the greatness of a movie like Mumford. It's a refreshing modern comedy which focuses not on pratfalls or cheesy one-liners, but on the truly funny moments of everyday life.
Maybe the movie wants to say that many psychology patients don't require over-medication or excessive deconstructions of their dreams, but just someone to listen to them. Mumford could also be precisely what the lead character says when asked by a patient what his remark of "hmm" means very interesting.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999