Flirting With Disaster
There is a part in this film where Mel Coplin's (Ben Stiller) mother (Mary Tyler Moore) is trying to explain something about sagging breasts to his wife, Nancy (Patricia Arquette). Mind you, this movie is supposed to be a comedy. All of a sudden, Mary lifts up her blouse to show Nancy the firmness of her own breasts. Mary Tyler Moore, for God's sakes! That's not comedy -- that's horror! It's the single scariest thing I've seen in cinema since 1981, when Julie Andrews bared her breasts in "S.O.B." Next thing you know, some uppity young director will spring a frontal nudity shot on us with Rue McLanahan or Betty White and bring modern civilization to a screeching halt.
Suffice it to say, the impression of Mary's breasts (however well covered) left an indelible impression on my memory that kept me off balance for the rest of the film. You can imagine the pained expression on my face when Lily Tomlin turned up later in the film as Mel's biological mother. It's just like a scary film when you know a bad part is coming up so you put your hands over your eyes and wait for somebody to scream.
In case you were wondering, Mary plays Mel's adopted mother. The story centers around Mel's search for his biological parents. Maybe if director David O. Russell had saved the "Mary incident" for the very end, this film would have been tolerable, but he didn't. When Mary reenters the picture toward the end, the potential menace of Mary's breasts hangs thickly in the air -- it's like waiting for Godzilla to step on Japan.
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