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DROWNING MONA ($25) is a goofy black comedy with a solid cast that generates plenty of laughs and a few groans. Bette Midler portrays the title character, Mona Dearly, who is killed during the film’s opening when she drives her car into the river. During a series of flashbacks we discover that Mona was the most hated woman in the small upstate New York town in which she lived. Through the flashbacks, we also get to why everyone is a suspect, when Mona’s death turns out to be murder.

Midler is ideally cast as the shrewish, obnoxious Mona- taking this over-the-top character and running with her. Midler also manages to get many of the film’s biggest laughs with her wonderfully nasty performance. DROWNING MONA also stars Danny DeVito, as police Chief Rash, who has the unenviable task of trying to figure out who didn’t commit the crime, since almost everyone wanted Mona dead. Suspects include Mona’s cheating husband Phil (William Fichtner), his mistress (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Mona’s idiot son Jeff (Marcus Thomas). Also on the list of suspects are Jeff’s business partner Bobby (Casey Affleck), as well as Bobby’s fiancée Ellen (Neve Campbell), who just happens to be the police Chief Rash’s daughter. The cast of DROWNING MONA also includes Peter Dobson, Kathleen Wilhoite, Tracey Walter, Paul Ben-Victor, Paul Schulze, Mark Pellegrino, Raymond O'Connor and Will Ferrell. By the way, DROWNING MONA has got to hold the record for the most Yugos in a single film (it’s a running joke in the movie). Who would of thought that there would be that many of those cars still in working order?

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done their usual great job with the DVD edition of DROWNING MONA. Viewers are given a choice of full screen and wide screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. This review will focus on the 16:9 enhanced wide screen version of DROWNING MONA, which has been properly framed at 1.85:1. Image quality is just one what one would expect from a new movie- everything appears bright, crisp, clean and nicely detailed. Colors reproduction delivers natural saturation and healthy looking flesh tones. There are no problems with either chroma noise or bleeding anywhere on the disc. Blacks have a solid inky consistency, plus the picture provides a good level of shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout the presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a better than average comedy mix, with some nicely deployed directional effects. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced with full intelligibility, plus the mix nicely integrates a number of retro pop tunes into all of the discrete channels. Additionally, the surround channels provide a lot of subtle sound effects, as well as a good deal of ambience. Michael Tavera’s delightful musical score also proves to be a treat on this well mixed soundtrack. Although it primarily enhances the film’s music, there are a few other places where the bass channel makes its presence known. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus provide the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as access to a few extras. Supplements include a running commentary with director Nick Gomez, plus deleted scenes with director’s commentary, talent files and a theatrical trailer.

DROWNING MONA is no RUTHLESS PEOPLE, but fans of Bette Midler and Danny DeVito are certain to get quite a few laughs out of this daffy black comedy.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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