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SIFF ADVANCE: Helicopter Mom - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
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SIFF ADVANCE: Helicopter Mom
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Directing: C-
Acting: B-
Writing: D+
Cinematography: B-
Editing: C



I feel bad for the people who made Helicopter Mom, which had its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this evening. They clearly had no malicious intent with this movie. It looks like they had fun making it. I'd be tempted to say it's perfectly harmless, but for how aggressively, oppressively corny it is. It's like its massively misguided "cutesiness" is crushing the audience with the full force of an auditorium-sized chunk of lead, forcing me to cower in my seat under its weight. I left the theatre feeling genuinely tense as a result. I feel like I need a massage.

Isn't that supposed to happen with movies that are, say, deeply disturbing? Helicopter Mom isn't disturbing so much as it's horribly embarrassing. The actors are by and large up to the task of pretending they are completely ignorant of the ineptitude of the script.

Like any movie, it'll work for some. It actually has its moments. Thematically, it is to be commended: 17-year-old Lloyd (an amiable Jason Dolley) spends the whole movie practically sexless, insisting he doesn't even know for sure if he's gay or straight. At one point he even says, "Apparently being bisexual or questioning also qualifies." For any of those bi or questioning people shouting, "Where's my movie!" -- here you go. Or maybe you should wait for the next one. Seriously, what 17-year-old actually doesn't know who or what he's attracted to? Let's hear it for asexuals!

Nope, nope. Lloyd is not asexual: in one conversation with his dad, who literally asks him what gives him an erection, Lloyd says, "I'm seventeen. Everything gives me an erection. A change in the weather gives me an erection. Calculus gives me an erection." Apparently Lloyd is neither heterosexual or homosexual, but boring-sexual.

Aforementioned stupid conversation aside, Lloyd's dad, Max (Mark Boone Junior), is arguably the best character in this film. Boone gives a relaxed performance that give even his ridiculous dialogue a vague sense of realism missing from every other part of the movie. He almost feels like a real person, and a refreshingly understanding and laid-back dad at that.

Lloyd's mother, on the other hand, as indicated by the film's title, is another story. Maggie, as played by My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos, is ridiculously over the top in her "helicopter parenting." Except here the conventional sense of "helicopter parenting" doesn't really apply either: she's not micromanaging Lloyd's academic activities, but rather smothering him socially. When she gets the smallest hint that Lloyd might be gay, she submits him for a scholarship for gay students, and starts setting him up on dates.

Basically Maggie is a sociopath. No one in this movie really acknowledges that, though, although Lloyd does at one point suggest she might be bipolar. She's the kind of mother that would thoroughly fuck up any kid in the real world, but here it's all just played for amusement, and everyone around her acts like she's just a nuisance. Even Lloyd, for all his cartoony exasperation, is erratically forgiving.

Of course, everyone has to learn their lessons, all of which unfold here like they would in a 1980s sitcom, just with a far more progressive attitude toward sexual minorities. Stuoid things happen; people react to them in stupid ways; they arrive at wholly contrived resolutions.

It's nice, at least, to see a movie where a young person goes on dates with both girls and guys and resists pressure to be labeled one way or another. There's genuine value in that. That value, however, gets buried in the hokey proceedings.

I'm trying to be fair. The audience at the screening I attended clearly enjoyed the movie, and was more than ready to engage in a Q & A with the director and producers and a couple cast members afterward. I had to get out of there. Let's just say this movie wasn't for me.

Nia Vardalos and Jason Dolley can't save themselves from HELICOPTER MOM.


Overall: C-
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