‘Mumford’ Revisited

         
 

23 April 2012| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Filed under Mild & Charming as well as Feel-Good Delights, Mumford (1999) was an unfortunate box office casualty the year of its release. It is perhaps the only comedy about a popular psychologist in a small Norman Rockwell-esque town called Mumford. Here’s a list of actors who play patients: Jason Lee, Hope Davis, Mary McDonnell, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Martin Short, and Zooey Deschanel in an early role. One of them is a billionaire and another is a patient whom the doc falls in love with. This is such a sunny movie and yet he’s into this one patient with a case of depression. He lifts it out of her.

I haven’t mentioned the actor who plays Doc Mumford. He’s played by the baby-faced, and unassuming Loren Dean. Here’s a meek, non-threatening but pleasant chameleon actor who had small bit parts in “Apollo 13” (1995) and “Enemy of the State” (1998) before being cast here. Later on, he took more TV roles in shows like “Bones” and “Terriers.” Perhaps the movie would have made a heap more money with a more popular name in the role, but Dean is pliable. Dean is perfect.

Mumford mentioned that from as long as he could remember, strangers loved opening up and telling their life story to him. He just had one of those faces. He gets unsolicited randoms coming off the street and asking him for an appointment.

You might have noticed that the character Mumford is the same as the town Mumford. That turns out to not be an accident. Only one of his patients has the pluck to ask Doc Mumford about his name, and in return, gets a mouthful of confession from the doc’s mouth. Mumford becomes best friends with this particular billionaire patient, with coffee shop owner (Alfre Woodard), and then… with just about everyone else in town.

Doc Mumford is the most popular psychologist, and the most approachable fellow. Mostly he just listens, makes the most simplest remarks, and has his patients figure out what’s wrong with themselves. He also plays matchmaker without hardly trying. He is an effortless Mr. Integrity. Two people in town do become jealous of him: David Paymer and Jane Adams play the other two town shrinks who have lost business because of Mumford. And even then, one of them becomes Mumford’s patient.

Some brief topless nudity (surprise!) will keep this from being for complete family viewing. Everybody else above the appropriate audience will be endeared. This is one of the most reassuring and life-affirming movies I’ve ever seen – a treasure. I will probably see it another fifteen times in my life. Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, whose current film in theaters is the amiable, if less successful, “Darling Companion” about the search for the family dog lost in the Rockies.

Film Cousins: “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985); “Joe vs. the Volcano” (1990); “It Could Happen To You” (1994); “Dan in Real Life” (2007).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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