Greetings again from the darkness. Just when it seems everything we say or do is offensive to someone and most every topic is considered politically incorrect, a movie shows up that seems to say it’s ok to be offensive if you are trying to make a worthy point. It’s kind of like someone defending their actions by saying “I’m not a racist – I have an African-American friend.”
Helicopter parenting is defined as an overly involved parent who thinks they are best serving their kid by staying involved in every detail of life – from homework to activities to love life. As sad as this phenomenon is, this movie from director Salome Breziner and writer Duke Tran is so exaggerated, a more appropriate title would be Chainsaw Mom. Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) stars as the clueless and relentless single mom obsessed with her son … especially the uncertainties of his sexual orientation.
Ms. Vardalos seems to have patterned her approach to the role after some of the wide-eyed over-the-top characters of Keenan Thompson from SNL. This is beyond caricature and it’s also beyond annoying. The character is not believable in any sense, and is fortunately offset by more grounded performances from Jason Dolley, who plays her unfortunate son, and Mark Boone Junior, who plays her ex-husband and his father.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking on a topic like teenage sexual ambiguity/confusion with a comedic approach; however, much of this comes off like a cheesy sitcom. The only thing missing is the laugh track … and maybe Vardalos hiding behind a potted plant while wearing Groucho glasses and mustache. I say maybe, because it’s possible the latter occurred during one of the many segments where I was rolling my eyes or shaking my head in disbelief.
Fortunately, there were some genuine father and son moments between Dolley and Boone. In fact, Boone’s performance is so good, it’s like someone changed the channel every time his character appears. Dolley and Skyler Samuels (The Duff) also have some very sweet and believable scenes together. It’s just a shame that a moment as poignant as the confused son asking his father “When did you know you were straight?” is offset by mom publicly humiliating her kid and herself in yet another unimaginable display of inappropriate and cartoonish behavior.
The supporting cast also includes Kate Flannery (TV’s “The Office”), Gillian Vigman (The Hangover), and Dallas’ own Hockaday girl Lisa Loeb – who has a role as a teacher, and wrote the song for the opening credits.
Confusion over sexual orientation in teenagers is certainly a topic worthy of film treatment, as is the cultural phenomenon of helicopter parenting. The slapstick comedy approach seems to overwhelm the first message, while the 1980’s sitcom style destroys any commentary on the second. The only person who thinks a boy’s best friend is his mother is Norman Bates. And Hitchcock showed us how that turns out.