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Friday, February 2, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Because I Said So" | For chick-flick nonsense, this takes the cake

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer



"Because I Said So," with Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Gabriel Macht, Tom Everett Scott, Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo, Stephen Collins. Directed by Michael Lehmann, from a screenplay by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson. 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity. Several theaters.

The romantic comedy "Because I Said So" offers plenty to look at: a series of edgy yet fetching outfits for star Diane Keaton (if you ignore the odd little neckerchiefs), heavenly-looking cakes, delicious bowls of pasta, a handsome yellow Lab, a musician in a porkpie hat who seems like he's wandered off the "Sex and the City" set, elegant homes decorated with just the right tchotchkes and uniformly excellent hair on the entire cast. Look hard, because all that stuff is the movie. Spark? Romance? Wit? Nope, sorry.

Even those who love Keaton will find Michael Lehmann's film a tough sit. Her feathery charms tend to divide audiences: She doesn't disappear into a character, but incorporates into her characters a version of herself. You can hear, in the light, girlish inflections of her characters in "Reds," "Mrs. Soffel" or "Shoot the Moon" (all brilliant) a trace of Annie Hall, the character Woody Allen famously based on the actress playing her. (Keaton's real name is Diane Hall). The touch of airiness she brings to dramatic roles has the odd but bracing effect of making the characters seem more grounded; the mixture of light and dark makes them complicated and real. In comedies, she floats happily, amused by herself. Not everyone likes her style (in acting, or in fashion), but Keaton always registers; she's never bland.

Alas, you might wish for blandness from Daphne Wilder, Keaton's character in "Because I Said So," who's something of a nutcase swathed in circle skirts and wide belts. She's a cake designer (though you wonder how she ever made a go of it, as she's always tottering around with her wares and usually drops them) and a doting single mother of three grown daughters. The youngest, Milly (Mandy Moore), is too busy with her catering career to meet a potential husband, and so Daphne gets busy with Internet dating ads and chooses an appropriate young man, a tiresome architect (Tom Everett Scott) with an expression that indicates he's just become aware of an unpleasant odor.

But, because the story needed some sort of oh-so-zany twist, another man (the porkpie-hat fellow, played by Gabriel Macht) enters the picture, and Milly dates both until circumstances demand that she choose one. She does, Daphne interferes, and it's all as scintillating as burnt soufflé. We know, from the first minute, which one Milly's going to choose; you probably know, too.

It's annoying to watch a movie written by women (Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson) in which all of the female characters are ninnies; it's even more annoying to see Keaton and Moore (who's very sweet and likable here) mired in this sort of chick-flick nonsense. Keaton heroically screeches, talks endlessly to the dog, drops cakes and generally acts like someone you might cross the street to avoid; she's taking an absurd role to the limit. It's a waste of a great actress, not to mention a waste of cake.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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