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Published: Friday, 2/2/2007

Movie review: Because I Said So *

Daphne (Diane Keaton), left, cuddles with her youngest
daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore), in Because I Said So. Daphne (Diane Keaton), left, cuddles with her youngest daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore), in Because I Said So.

The Soupy Sales School of Comedy is alive if unwell in Because I Said So. It's because Diane Keaton is no Soupy Sales.

Both of them are revered by me, but really, you wouldn't ask Soupy to sub for Warren Beatty, would you? No, you wouldn't. And you wouldn't, or shouldn't, ask Keaton to take a pie - let alone two cakes - in the face.

Pastry-pitching and receiving is not her forte. Romantic comedy is, in general, but her skills fall to the occasion of this particularly lame screenplay: Its heroine is Daphne Wilder (Keaton), a marriage-minded matriarch who meddles 24/7 in her three daughters' lives. Two of the girls are happily hitched, but the youngest, Milly (Mandy Moore), is unlucky in love and still unattached.

That, of course, is a terrifying, intolerable thing, and overbearing Daphne is determined to make Milly's match. She secretly places an ad in the personals (with elaborate prerequisites and exclusion-ary criteria) and screens the resulting applicants herself in a hotel lounge. They're all predictably geeky except for rich dreamboat Jason (Tom Everett Scott), the hands-down winner. "Hands off!" loser is Johnny (Gabriel Macht), the lounge guitarist who witnesses Daphne's bizarre interview process and, intrigued by it, woos Milly behind her mother's back.

Milly falls clumsily in love with both of them. Whom will she end up with?

If the suspense doesn't kill you, the heavy-handed slapstick and over-the-top caricatures might. When not pratfalling in food (the family has a catering business), Keaton in her performance keeps mistaking hysteria for humor, evidently encouraged to do so by director Michael Lehmann. He signals that "serious drama" is happening now and then, whenever a treacly sentimental piano theme kicks in. But overall, there's barely a moment or two of credible mother-daughter interaction.

There are, however, some locker-room laughs at a gym when the ringing of a cell phone sends all four women diving for their purses and the Asian masseuses dis them in subtitles. And pop-singer Moore does a competent enough job of acting (if not enough singing).

For the most part, though, Because I Said So is conventional chick-flick shtick.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Barry Paris is a film critic for the Post-Gazette.

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