Mother’s Boys (1993)
Judith Madigan (Jamie Lee Curtis) disappears from her family abruptly. While she’s out of the picture her husband Peter Gallagher and their three sons try to adjust to a life without their wive and mother.
Three years later, Judith suddenly returns. She learns her husband has got into a serious relationship with Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, her three sons have been emotionally rocked by her absence and Gallagher is ready to move on without her. Now that she’s reappeared, he can finalize a divorce from her and move on with his and his sons lives.
That’s not exactly what Judith plans on though. She’s obsessed to just pick up with her family where she left off. So, she does what most characters do in thrillers during the late 1980s and early 1990s – she goes full blown crazed psycho on this family!
Curtis’ career first ignited by playing the victim in Halloween. She was the ‘Final Girl’ you were rooting to survive in slasher films and became known as the beloved vulnerable ‘Scream Queen’.
Forty years later she has enjoyed a bit of resurgence returning to her most famous role of Laurie Strobe in 2018’s Halloween. It was a big hit and everyone was happy to see her back in the spotlight.
In Mother’s Boys she gets to drop the innocent victim role. This time out she’s the creepy, obsessed character who causes as much suffering as she can without showing a hint of remorse.
My guess is that Curtis probably liked getting the chance to play evil. That’s probably what the big draw is for many of the actors who got to sink their teeth into a juicy, showy stalkerish part during this time – Michael Keaton, Rebecca De Mornay, Jennifer Jason Leigh, they all got to cut loose, and chewed up the scenery by acting unhinged and threatening in the popular psycho thriller craze during this time.
Hopefully Curits enjoyed herself playing this part, because viewers won’t be having much fun watching it.
Directed by Yves Simoneau, Mother’s Boys is a pretty subpar thriller in the overloaded obsessed stalker genre. There’s nothing you will take away from it. No moments of suspense, no deliciously malevolent performance by Curtis to be entertained by and the story gets so ludicrous in the end you’ll be left wondering if the movie intentionally moved into camp territory or if it was just plain bad.
I lean towards the ‘it’s just being plain bad’ perspective.
Curtis struts her stuff as the unhinged mother. She chain smokes, has her bleached blonde hair, slinky skirts and high heels. She arrives back in town, has a reunion with Gallagher and gets rebuffed. She is raging when she learns of this new family unit he’s set up with an assistant vice principal (Whalley) and it looks like her family is doing quite nicely without her.
She can’t have any of that.
Fortunately, because she is the boys’ mother she gets to spend time with them again. The oldest son will be trickier to get to warm up to her, but she tries her darnedest manipulating him with tales of Kilmer being a mean lady and Gallagher trying to prevent Curtis of seeing them.
None of the scenes are compelling and it quickly starts to appear like the movie has no idea what to do with this premise. And what does unfold if neither entertaining or surprising. You’d be pretty smart to just bail on it right here.
Of course being a movie stalker and ‘the mother from hell’, Curtis has to do some underhanded stuff to shake up the foundation of this family, but none of it is clever or outrageously memorable. I would have welcomed even laughable silliness by her, but there’s nothing.
There’s no fun psychological games unleashed by Curtis. No witty bizarre calculated harassment. She spray paints ‘Whore’ on Whalley’s car. She tries to seduce Gallagher at work. She fakes being attacked by Whalley and cuts her own face. It doesn’t go much more psycho than that throughout the middle portion of the movie.
Things really start to drag! You’re waiting for things to pick up, but they never do. The best they can come up with are some cheap jump scares and enough deceptive dream sequences they would make Freddy Kruger jealous.
There is a very strange, notorious scene of Curtis and her twelve-year-old son in her apartment. He spots her walking around naked. She gets in a bubble bath and asks him to talk to her. She then stands up to show him her cesarean scar.
It is very weird. You almost wonder if she’s trying to seduce the kid. It’s almost as blatant an act as she was trying to seduce Gallagher when she was taking off her shirt sitting on his lap.
I suppose it’s meant to show how unbalanced she is, but it’s impossible to take seriously and I was left wondering how they ever thought this would be a real emotional, powerful scene. It’s not exactly going to rival the ‘boiled bunny’ in Fatal Attraction. I don’t think this scene would fly today. It can’t be one of Curtis’ proudest moments on film.
The climactic final act is one real looney one! It’s so outrageous and nonsensical it actually becomes the most entertaining part of the entire movie just for its unintended comedy.
Vanessa Redgrave (who has a thankless role as Curtis’ mother) has an accident. Curtis’ oldest son’s mind has been so warbled by her all her kids handcuff Whalley and hold her on trial for ruining their family. Things escalate to a car crash. with a whooping suspenseful final scene with a car dangling over the side of a cliff.
It’s all so crazy! I’ll just say this, if you ever watched Gilligan’s Island, and if you remember Gilligan would fall off a cliff and it momentarily would look like he fell to his death, but then we’d see he’s hanging from a tree root sticking out of the side of the cliff? Well, this ends in a somewhat similar way, only with a car with Whalley, the kid and Curtis hanging on for dear life.
And we’re meant to be biting our fingernails waiting to see who will survive? It’s almost worth watching this flick just for this! I was having a grand time laughing at this!
The characters are all so incredibly bland the only thing I can remember about them are the basics. Gallagher is the dad. Whalley is the girlfriend. Curtis is the crazy mom. The kids….they were the kids. Redgrave plays Curtis’ mother. I almost forgot she was in this, since her part seemed so pointless. Maybe they pulled her into this to try to give it some respectability and she needed a quick paycheck. This movie did not help anyone’s career.
Then add in the cheap looking production values and it looks like a decades old Lifetime movie of the week.
It’s a shame, particularly for Whalley. I had a huge crush on her back during this time. I would watch some movies just to see her and always rooted for her to get something going. I will admit she looks as gorgeous as ever in this. That’s one positive thing I can say about this flick at least.
First seeing her in Willow, then getting critical appreciation for her performance in Scandal, it looked like she was on the road for bigger stardom. Unfortunately, her choices around this time sunk the momentum she had. She appeared in a string of roles in lousy unmemorable movies. She got to doing some television movies, playing Scarlett O’Hara and Jackie Kennedy. Then gradually transitioned into becoming more of a supporting actor who would pop up on television and small roles in a film from time to time.
I was happy to see she recently had a nice bump in exposure from her role as Sister Maggie in the third season of Daredevil and got some nice reviews. I still think she could have been a more popular actress had she had better roles back during this time.
So, yeah. Mother’s Boys – a real lousy thriller. It’s definitely on the lower end of all the obsessed stalker movies that flooded out during this time. There could be an argument made it is the worst. There’s no style to it, nothing interesting that is done, Curtis’ psycho mother is nothing worth remembering. Maybe seeing Curtis as a platinum blonde, but really that’s about it.
Now that she has had a bit of resurgence with a new Halloween movie and she’s enjoying a career high point, one might be curious to see what one of her real lows was. I don’t particularly advise it though. In fact, I don’t think she would either.
The trailer is a pretty accurate of what you’re in for