on December 27, 1996 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   Comic genius Albert Brooks is in top form with this unerringly astute and hilarious look at familial relationships, revolving around a neurotic SF writer (Brooks) who decides to move back home so he can get to know his mother (Debbie Reynolds) better. As John Henderson, whose second divorce has prompted much soul searching, Brooks is a comic delight as he tries to interpret his mother's every action but remains oblivious to how much he's getting on her nerves.
   Mom, too, is a pain in the neck. She's always asking John why he isn't selling as well as Stephen King and keeps harping on the fact that his anal-retentive, conservative brother, sports agent Jeff ("Last Dance's" Rob Morrow), is happily married and rich. She's also prone to purchasing cheap and awful no-name products, which drives her son crazy.
   Many a filmmaker would have milked this situation for cheap laughs. But Brooks' films, including "Modern Romance" and "Defending Your Life," always offer painfully realistic but probingly funny dissections of human foibles. The miscommunication between son and mother (and brother and brother) and the sustained bickering is priceless. Reynolds is especially astounding; she keeps revealing new layers to her personality while appearing not to be aware that she has any depth at all.
   Of course, that's the point of Brook's perceptive comedy: We don't know our parents and they don't know us. Yet, he takes his time getting to that realization. "Mother," anchored by its adept cast (including Morrow, who creates a classic portrait of a mama's boy), is nearly perfect moviemaking. If its conclusion is just a little too neat and pat--Brooks has always had trouble with his endings--it's otherwise so far above the comic norm that it really doesn't matter. Starring Albert Brooks, Debbie Reynolds and Rob Morrow. Directed by Albert Brooks. Written by Albert Brooks and Monica Johnson. Produced by Scott Rudin and Herb Nanas. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references. Running time: 103 min. Screened at the Toronto fest. Opens 12/25 NY/LA; expands wider 1/10 & 1/24
Tags: Starring Albert Brooks, Debbie Reynolds and Rob Morrow, Directed by Albert Brooks. Written by Albert Brooks, Monica Johnson, Produced by Scott Rudin, Herb Nanas, Paramount, Comedy

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