There are some movies out there that some little part wants to like so desperately. Whether it’s the actors or the director’s previous work, there’s this weird emotional tie to it that leads to expectations. Unfortunately, for me at least, that was Mumford‘s undoing. The idea behind it of a psychologist, who’s helping everyone in town with their problems, who isn’t all that he seems isn’t an incredibly original idea for starters. It seemed vaguely reminiscent of The Music Man but, you know, with Freud instead of John Phillip Sousa.
But sadly enough, it isn’t even the plot that derails Mumford. Its execution is somewhat frantic and inconsistent, which is the real shame, because it features such great supporting actors and actresses. Mumford tries to sell this idea of community but the interaction between all the supporting roles and the titular character always feels very forced and routine. Sure, some of that has to with the fact that a lot of their interaction takes place in his office, but even outside of that, in the “real world” of Mumford, it seems wildly insincere and sporadic. That was a definite issue with the movie is that it wants to lend equal importance to all these characters but there’s just so much going on in each of their lives that it seems like it would become a necessity to compound some of them, right? Well, director Lawrence Kasdan, of Big Chill fame, does is best at that through romantic liaisons between some of the characters, but it’s difficult to invest even there. There is a definite attempt to create strong memorable characters, but it takes a backseat to the whirlwind romance, which demotes this movie to pretty standard, even trite, romantic fare. That is the real loss here, with Mumford. It starts off strong with a very confident sense of humor. There’s this fantastic wordplay between characters that seems straight out of a Cukor film, but it gets dropped in favor of the dramatic and romantic endeavors of our lead.
However, Mumford does have some reason to celebrate and that is largely in part thanks to its lead, Loren Dean. It’s a shame the man hasn’t seemed to work that much since this movie’s release, except for a couple of episodes of crime procedural shows here and there. He’s both charming and sincere in his intentions, even if he doesn’t have the license to practice. Dean makes the character an incredibly likable and engaging lead character. His supporting cast, which at times is used to sparingly, is made up of the great hope Davis, Alfre Woodard, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Mary McDonnell, and Ted Danson. It’s a great list, right? Unfortunately, most of these actors and actresses aside from Davis and Lee are woefully underused, but that’s what happens when Mumford takes on a full case load.
They often say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While I wouldn’t call Mumford hell, it certainly suffers from the same problem. It wants to be a crowd pleaser, but offers a little too much of everything, but not enough of any of it to make a completely satisfying movie. Luckily, it has a strong cast that make it at least worth checking out, but little more than that.