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ever watch a very young child try and tell a joke that is beyond his , or her , sophistication ?
it's full of stops and starts and usually , the punch line is ruined .
i felt the same way watching drowning mona .
skip a stone across water and you approximate the depth of this attempt at an ensemble comedy .
there are some slightly successful attempts at humor , but they only serve as window dressing .
there is a running gag about the town , verplanck , n . y . , being a test town for the then new yugo .
everyone drives a yugo , differentiating their cars with personalized license plates .
even the police chief drives one .
there is a certain sublimeness to the image of a lights and siren decked out yugo skittering its way through the town streets .
there also is a running gag about one of the characters , jeff , missing a hand and how it occurred .
it pokes gentle fun at the notion of urban legends .
it turns out the truth is more horrifying than any legend .
there are some sight gags that pop up as well , such as mona's tombstone , which reads " demoted " , instead of devoted .
still , the core of the story maintains the flatness of a still pond .
the lynchpin of the film falls on the redundant and sporadic scenes involving mona ( midler ) .
each scene with her is the same : scream at someone , hit someone , then scream some more .
there's no uniqueness or modulation to her or explanation for her meanness .
anyone off the street could have played the role , such as it is .
the other characters are walking cardboard cutouts .
each one is defined by one trait and no further attempt is made at deeper characterization .
there is a burly , female car mechanic , so of course , there is a forced lesbianism gag .
mona's son , jeff ( marcus thomas ) is a simpleton , hence you can predict his dialogue before it even plods its way from his mouth .
chief of police rash ( devito ) likes broadway musicals and loves his daughter .
there's nothing more to him .
elle , the chief's daughter ( campbell ) , is bland personified , a dutiful girl with no higher aspiration than to have a child and be married .
mona's husband phil ( fichtner ) jeckle and hydes from shirking coward to reptilian letch .
bob ( affleck ) , elle's betrothed , and business partner to jeff , is a mumbling , obvious dullard .
there is no contrast to any of the characters .
by having at least one character with some wit , or wits , to serve as counterpoint to the others , perhaps steinfeld's attempt at satirizing a small town infested with ambitionless people might have come off better .
ostensibly a murder mystery , drowning mona gives you almost all the clues immediately , then lets you sit back and feel superior as you watch the cast of paper people fumble their way to finding the killer , who could be anyone due to mona's loving manner with everyone on town .
even that aspect of the film fails , throwing in a convenient , ridiculous and unsatisfying wrap to things .
it's been a while since i walked away from a movie theater in an angry mood .
what makes it all the more remarkable is that i rarely remember a comedy making me so angry for wasting my time at it's ineptitude .