Movie reviews by Edwin Jahiel

Mumford ***1/4

Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Photography, Ericson Core;. Eiditing, Carol Littleton and William Steinkamp. Production design, Jon Hutman. Music, Cast: : Loren Dean (Mumford), Hope Davis (Sofie Crisp), Jason Lee (Skip Skipperton), Alfre Woodard (Lily), Mary McDonnell (Althea Brockett), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Henry Follett), Zooey Deschanel (Nessa Watkins), Martin Short (Lionel Dillard), David Paymer (Dr. Ernest Delbanco), Jane Adams (Dr. Phyllis Sheeler), Dana Ivey (Mrs. Crisp), Kevin Tighe (Crisp), Ted Danson (Jeremy Brockett), et al. A Touchstone release. 115 minutes. R (sex, language, dope)

"I never saw A Purple Cow/ I never hope to see one/But I can tell you, anyhow/I'd rather see than be one. " (Gelett Burgess, 1866-? though often attributed to Ogden Nash)

I never saw a shrink. I hope I never will. The mind-analyzers or healers I know are movie characters. By those standards, Mumford is most unorthodox.

He's played by Loren Dean, 30, who has acted in at least a dozen movies I've seen -- but I cannot remember him. Here his Mumford looks 30 too. Unlike so many movie shrinks -- especially in comedies -- he's not older, bearded. has no German accent and doesn't act shrinkingly. Who's that man?

He has set up business in a relatively shabby office in a smallish town called Mumford, too. Ah, there must be a catch to this, but what? Mumford is an old mill-town (no joke about Miltown the medicine) which had fallen into bad times but recovered thanks to the Panda Modem factory which employs most of the Mumfordians.

Being ignorant of the ratio of shrinks, I would think that the two already in Mumford were plenty. When Mumford appears, three's a crowd. He becomes the most popular of his genus, with methods that are un-kosher. How he listens or does not, how he interrupts his patients, how he cuts them off and even dismisses them, how he does everything else are, to put it mildly, different if not odd But he's not "colorful" either.

His clients range from pathetic to compulsive to sweet to obnoxious. They are weirdos, but when all is said and done, you like them. Something of a modified, sophisticated Frank Capra seems to lie beneath the film's exterior.

Most people like Mr Mumford, starting with Alfre Woodard his landlady, neighbor and cafe-owner. Appealing, wise but not sententious, probably complex, she's the one major character who would never need to consult a shrink. But young geek Skip Skipperton does.

He's the Panda Modem creator, is worth three billion dollars already, is likable, has his own problems, spends most of his time skateboarding like a champion, does some strange things. To avoid the publicity, he proposes to Mumford that they meet not as doctor and patient but as friends. Which they become in reality. It works. Mumford, in fact, most unprofessionally, discusses his other patients with him. Original, to say the least.

Without making this film primarily a setting for characters, or a love story, or a mystery, these and other elements are all there, nicely blended, humorously treated, cleverly sketched out. We feel that Mr Mumford, an addict of Unsolved Mysteries on TV, has his owns secrets. There are little clues from the start, but they do not point to specifics. We may or may not begin to guess what's up as the film unfurls. Yet nothing hits you over the head, you are kept watching, enjoying , smiling, and very often, laughing.

All performances hit the spot. So does Lawrence Kasdan's track record, as writer, director and producer. The first movie he made was Body Heat (1981). Then came The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, I Love you to Death, Grand Canyon, Wyatt Earp, French Kiss. A select, unhurried body of work, often original and pioneering, stressing psychology (unpedantically), interractions among people, often several of them. There's clarity and sensitivity there, as well as humor as in movies he wrote and others directed: Two of the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, for instance.

The consistency of a very good "auteur" runs throughout the variety of his work. Mumford is the most recent link in a remarkable chain.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie reviews by Edwin Jahiel