They say that the best way to uncover just what a man truly thinks of women is to see how he treats his mother. In fact, right up there with “sense of humor,” one of the most desirable qualities female friends rattle off when listing the ideal man seems to be “gets along well with his mother.” Of course, one can’t help who their parents are just as much as one can’t help who their children are and there are definite understandable exceptions to this rule. And granted, chivalry may be on its last legs but often times the little things men do to show their affinity or compassion for women from simply holding a door, offering a coat, walking us to our car in bad neighborhoods, or not trying to grope us in the first instant we’re alone are often internally, instinctually ingrained at a young age by their relationship to the first woman in their life-- namely "mom." However, this being said, there’s a definite difference between loving one’s mother and being a mama’s boy and I know plenty of relationships that went south precisely because of this difference in what attracted a woman in the first place was just a sneak preview of the mother issues her mate had once they’d gotten together. But truth be told, when it comes to mama’s boys, Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder’s character Jeffrey Mannus takes the cake in the aptly named film Mama’s Boy.
Like Matthew McConaughey in Failure to Launch, Jeffrey is one of those twenty-nine year old late bloomers who still lives at home but while McConaughey’s alter ego in Launch used it to an advantage as the perfect excuse to end a relationship without doing any of the heavy lifting or awkward “we need to talk” conversations most of us try desperately to avoid, Jeffrey prefers that the only woman in his life is his mother Jan (Diane Keaton) and that likewise, he should be her only man. Predictably things change when Jan approaches the cheesy if innocuous "success coach" Mert Rosenbloom (a hilarious Jeff Daniels), like a smitten groupie after a lecture and she accepts a date to see him perform with his jazz band, aptly named “The Mertones." While great for the desperately lonely Jan, this agreement sounds an insecurity alarm in Jeffrey who-- similar to his mother-- hasn’t dated in three years and cruelly reminds Jan that as a middle aged widow she’s “not some trollop from a Jackie Collins novel.”
Thankfully she ignores her son’s advice, not to mention his insistence to stalk his mother’s every move during her courtship with Mert, between his hobbies of collecting comic books, role-playing intricate outdoor battles with other Dungeons and Dragons types, obsessively watching and listening to all things 1980s dressed like a New Wave Smiths devotee, and usurping control of classic video games at the local arcade. Then flirtation finds Jeffrey and he's equally thrown for a loop after meeting cute with Nora Flannigan (Lost in Translation’s Anna Faris), a rebellious coffee shop employee whose real hobby is as “plucky songstress” writing protest anthems about corporate America including her own favorite track, “Bed, Bath and Bulls**t.”
While Nora’s interest in the mean-spirited loser who demands that his mother continue to make his daily lunch and walk him to the bus (since he refuses to drive), seems far-fetched at best, Faris is so genuinely likable that she’s the one singular breath of fresh air in this slightly stale straight-to-DVD, forgettable confection that wastes its gift of Diane Keaton, makes Heder a far creepier version of the geek he played in School for Scoundrels, and gives both saving grace Faris and the amazingly diverse and resourceful Daniels too few opportunities to shine.
But admittedly it's much better than one would assume, even with an overly padded ending that seems tacked on simply to try and lighten up the film’s tone after a painfully unfunny turn of events sours us on the main characters, it’s sure to garner more support on DVD due to the commercial appeal of the leads. Despite this and I note this with affection as someone who was forced to move back in with mom for grad school budgetary reasons-- mama’s boys be warned as director Tim Hamilton’s Mama’s Boy may provide one more stumbling block for men in their late twenties who still live at home in trying to meet a romantic mate. For a more flattering—if admittedly just as predictable—view of homebound males as "McConaughey-like shirtless hotties," it’s perhaps best to rent Failure to Launch if you’re choosing a film to share on a date... just before revealing that you still sleep in your childhood bedroom.