Decent style and amiable cast can't conceal the silliness of Mother's Boys, an unsuspenseful variation of the yuppie-in-peril thriller. Jamie Lee Curtis stars as the “mother from hell,” an unstable woman who reappears after a three-year departure to reclaim her family. Miramax understandably did not hold advance screenings for this film, which will probably enjoy a longer life on the video shelf than in moviehouses.
Set in L.A., story begins as Jude (Curtis), an attractive woman who deserted her husband (Peter Gallagher) and three sons without any explanation, suddenly returns, determined to win back her family. Curtis is convinced that Gallagher still loves her, even though he is now attached to Callie (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), the warm and supportive assistant principal at his son's school.
When begging forgiveness and other “charming” strategies fail, Curtis resorts to manipulating Kess (Luke Edwards), her eldest son who had suffered the most as a result of her abandonment. Curtis is not above buying her kids expensive gifts, taking them to a planetarium and, in what is the movie's most controversial scene, demonstrating to Kess in full nudity her scar from his birth, which she sees as a symbol of their special bond.
Not much can be praised about Mother's Boys, a film that has an uninteresting beginning, an exploitational middle that actually cheats by genre standards, and a ludicrous climax that is borderline laughable. The few suspenseful moments in the film, which was directed by Canadian Yves Simoneau, are unfairly earned, as they are mostly nightmares or anxiety attacks, experienced by the characters in their sleep.
Elliot Davis' fancy lensing (mega close-ups, swirling camera, graceful tracking shots) only accentuates the predictably slender plot of a movie that lacks twists and turns, intricate texture, and frightening undertones, all crucial elements for effective psychological thrillers.
Fans of former scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis might get a kick out of seeing her not as a frightful victim, but as an erotic, manipulative avenger. As the father caught between a legal system that favors mothers and his parental responsibility, the attractive Gallagher does what he can with his poorly written role. The only performer who rises above the material is the luminous Vanessa Redgrave, as Curtis' sensitive mother, even though she has only four brief scenes.