Mother’s Boys (1994)


USA. 1994.


Director – Yves Simoneau, Screenplay – Richard Hawley & Barry Schneider, Based on the Novel by Bernard Taylor, Producers – Jack E. Freedman, Patricia Herskovic & Wayne S. Williams, Photography – Elliot Davis, Music – George S. Clinton, Mechanical Special Effects – Image Special Effects Company (Designed by Peter Chesney), Art Direction – David Bomba. Production Company – Miramax Films/CBS Productions


Jamie Lee Curtis (Judith Madigan), Peter Gallagher (Robert Madigan), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Colleen ‘Callie’ Harland), Luke Edwards (Kes Madigan), Vanessa Redgrave (Lydia), Colin Ward (Michael Madigan), Joey Zimmerman (Ben Madigan), Joss Ackland (Lansing), Paul Guilfoyle (Mark Kaplan), J.E. Freeman (Everett)


Judith Madigan returns home after a three-year disappearance. In the interim, her husband Robert has filed for divorce and is planning to marry assistant school principal Callie Harland. Judith insists on the right to see their three boys and Robert is forced to comply from a legal standpoint. However, as they argue, the disturbed Judith starts trying to turn the boys against Robert. She sees Callie as having seduced Robert away from her and makes plans to eliminate her.

Mother’s Boys seemed a potentially interesting effort at the outset. For one, it clearly held enough quality to attract Jamie Lee Curtis back to the horror genre for the first time in thirteen years after her avowed resignation from horror typecasting following Halloween II (1981). It seemed to promise to go into the same places that The Stepfather (1987) did by offering equal time to psycho mothers – perhaps not so much a Stepmother as a Separated Mother.

Instead, the film comes out a major disappointment. One has a sinking feeling about it from the moment of an annoying dream jump shock with Peter Gallagher waking up thinking that Jamie Lee Curtis is in his bed. One of these sequences might have been excusable but director Yves Simoneau clearly falls in love with the device and conducts two other similar false jumps throughout. The film follows the conventions of the modern psycho film far too closely – it is entirely predictable. Jamie Lee Curtis, who is usually a fine actress, plays far too over-the-top to seem believable. Her character starts in as a psycho from the start and Curtis’s performance lacks any gradations of subtlety.

Mother’s Boys falls into a certain genre of Family Values psycho-thrillers established following Fatal Attraction (1987). These films take the nuclear family as a norm and see any intrusion on it as alien. Rather than casting Peter Gallagher and his attempts to raise his sons as the norm and Jamie Lee Curtis as standard psycho trying to tear them apart, a far more interesting film would have started out with Curtis played sympathetically as a mother just trying to get her children back and being driven over the edge by his obstinate refusal to allow her to see the children (something that is never questioned in the film). At its most interesting point, the film has a series of scenes with Jamie Lee Curtis trying to get into twelve year-old son Luke Edwards’s head, the most perverse of which involve her wantonly parading naked in front of him.

However, Mother’s Boys descends into increasing silliness, none more so than its ending that involves:– Joanne Whalley-Kilmer allowing herself to be handcuffed up by the boys as part of a game; one of them taking sympathy on her and bringing her a glass of water, only for him to trip over and manage to fatally stab himself on the glass; Whalley-Kilmer then deciding to run to hospital carrying the kid instead of driving in the car that is parked right outside; Jamie Lee Curtis having managed to cut the brake cables and then concocted a bizarre scheme that involves her abducting the family dog with the intention of making it run across the road in front of the car in order to cause Whalley-Kilmer to skid off the cliff; only for Luke Edwards, after only a single driving lesson, having decided to drive the car instead of Whalley-Kilmer, he skidding to avoid the dog and managing to go over the cliff; then an extended scene with all the major characters trying to save each other as they hang from the car – and at least several people swapping around and managing to hang from each other’s hands off the car at different points in the sequence.

Canadian director Yves Simoneau had previously directed much French-language tv and film in Quebec. He dallied in the US making tv mini-series such as the Western Dead Man’s Walk (1996) and the superb Dean R. Koontz adaptation Intensity (1997). His one other genre outings have been the routine sf/action film Ignition (2001), a tv movie version of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast (2012) and the UFO investigation tv movie Horizon (2013).

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