Mumford

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Mumford

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A study once revealed that while seeing a psychologist generally has positive effects on a person's psyche, you can derive equally beneficial results by simply pouring your heart out to the average bartender or barber. It's an interesting finding, and it provides a fine starting point for discussing Mumford, a gentle new comedy-drama about a phony psychiatrist (Loren Dean) who begins a practice in the titular small town and proceeds to solve everyone's problems by making evident the inner torments lying just beneath the surface. Detached and vaguely superior enough to seem like an actual psychiatrist, but far too blunt to actually be a medical professional, Dean's character resembles in many ways the protagonist of Zero Effect, an overlooked 1997 film written and directed by Jake Kasdan, the son of Mumford co-writer/director Lawrence Kasdan. The protagonists in both films are effective workers confused about their personal lives, and both are oddly passive protagonists, more likely to function in the background than assert their own will. Zero Effect is superior to Mumford, though, primarily because it focuses on three or four well-defined main characters rather than spreading itself impossibly thin, as the elder Kasdan's film often does. Mumford is strangely flat, more amusing than funny, and more pleasant than profound, but it still has much to recommend it. As the calm protagonist, Dean does a nice job mixing serene self-confidence with quiet self-doubt, and with a few notable exceptions (Martin Short and Ted Danson as heavies), the secondary cast (the enjoyably sour Hope Davis, the always-entertaining Jason Lee as a skateboarding billionaire) is excellent. Mumford is very much a "good enough" movie—good enough to be worth seeing but not particularly deep—but considering the quality of most Hollywood product, even tame films stand out.

Filed Under: DVD

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