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Movie Review

Drowning Mona

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements, language, and brief sexuality

Reviewed by: Gabe Rodriguez

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Comedy Mystery
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 3, 2000 (wide)
Bette Midler as Mona
Featuring: Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bette Midler, Casey Affleck, Neve Campbell
Director: Nick Gomez
Producer: Bart Rosenblatt, Eugene Musso
Distributor: Destination Films

“Drowning Mona” is a funny and entertaining (albeit rather offbeat and twisted) murder mystery about a small town filled to the brim with nasty white-trash residents. One of the nastiest, Mona Dearly (played excellently by Bette Midler), is about as mean and surly as they come. And when she “accidentally” drives her Yugo off a cliff, the local sheriff (Danny DeVito) starts suspecting that it may have been foul play. But as the tagline on the poster so clearly states, “The question isn’t who would want Mona Dearly dead, it’s who wouldn’t?”

Scene from “Drowning Mona”

The performances in this quirky little comedy couldn’t be more on the spot. Midler is trashy and campy in a good way, portraying Mona as ferociously as she can. DeVito as the sweet and lovable sheriff is rather understated, but he ecks out a decent performance. Neve Campbell and Casey Affleck are both cute and likeable as a soon-to-be-married couple. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a waitress at a local Greasy Spoon diner, and William Fichtner is Mona’s longsuffering husband. Complied with a great, hilarious script, debut director Nick Gomez goes over the top to make us laugh, and totally succeeds.

Jamie Lee Curtis as a waitress From a Christian standpoint, there are a few things out of place. First of all, the whole murder thing: it’s done in a lighthearted fashion, which may offend some people. So if making light of murder is not funny to you, stay away from “Drowning Mona”. The profanity in the film is fairly pervasive, especially from the potty-mouthed title character. While there is only 1 or 2 f-words, there are plenty of other expletives and obscenities. There is also a fair amount of crude humor and even a tame and brief sex scene, but they really don’t test the PG-13 limit. Also, there is a brief scene where a woman kisses another, but they aren’t lesbians (or at least ONE of them isn’t), and it’s played for laughs. There is NO romatic relationship between the two.

When it all comes down to it, “Drowning Mona” is by no means a great film. Funny and entertaining, but not great. For the price of the theater ticket, it was worth it. But bear caution before allowing any pre-teens to view this one.

Viewer Comments
I was a little surprised to see so many positive comments on this film! I brought my 16 year old niece with me (I am 24) and we were both taken aback by the fact that virtually every character is either dim witted and/or morally bankrupt. Let’s face it, the plot of the film is based around the fact that a horrible person was murdered and no one seems to care!

The other subject matter that I found extremely offensive was the fact that the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis is having an affair with not only one married man, but also his son! I’ve seen Ms. Curtis in other films and have found her to be funny and delightful—not like the tasteless and crass waitress she plays in this film. Casey Affleck’s character comes across as being one of the few sweet and gentle souls in the small town [until later].

My niece and I both felt extremely uncomfortable during a kissing scene between 2 female characters. While it was done in such a way as to show the humor in it (one character was obviously gay, the other was not) I couldn’t help but yearn for a time not too long ago when more wholesome family oriented movies like “Harry and the Hendersons” or “Newsies” were playing at the theaters.

I don’t want to start quoting from the scriptures or anything (ha ha) but I can’t think of any positive role models in this movie or any character that I would call a Christian. I’m sorry if I sound at all prudish about this, but I just can’t recommend this film at all. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Mary, age 24
One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen… This whole movie was about these to being sexually involved, and that was the basis of their whole relationship… sex. I had never walked out of a movie until this one. Constant talk about drugs, drinking, and sex. Horrible.
—Jennifer, age 22
This was a cool movie, sort of a movie buff’s dream come true. If you watch a lot of movies, you’re bound to start quoting them in conversation. Sooner or later, you get a group of people together over coffee at Denny’s around one in the morning, and whimsical fantasy screenplays will start to emerge. That’s what “Drowning Mona” feels like. There are so many lines and scenes in the movie that are blatantly ripped off from other films, it’s easy to see that somebody was having the last laugh. “Watch this—I’ll make a whole movie out of recycled bits of other movies!” It’s great fun. My personal favorite is the allusion to “Les Miserables” when Danny DeVito gives his final warning to Casey Affleck. So, please, don’t take this thing so seriously. You might hurt yourself, eh?
—Peter Wall, age 21
This movie has murder, normal and deviant sexual innuendo, and foul language. However, the whole screenplay is so farsical (from all the Yugos to speculations of how Jeff lost his right hand), that it is difficult to take any of these offenses seriously. The plot was well developed with a surprise conclusion. Stupid and/or mean, human behavior is portrayed, but so exaggerated that it becomes humorous and many of us could say “I know someone just like that”. Some scenes are hilarious just from the visuals (the doc in waders with a stethoscope, the lady with the whip outside the cabin). This movie can give you some good laughs. The only caveat to that is it presumes the existence of a lesser form of the human race and you the viewer are not one of them. If you don’t take that seriously, you can enjoy this movie. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Mark Dawson, age 50
A precious few movies are released that blow your mind away with the effects, acting, and plot. This is NOT one of them. With a cast like this one, I thought to myself, “how could this movie be bad?” I found out exactly how! There is absolutely no plot, no storyline, nothing even remotely believable about this film. Murder is taken so lightly and profanity is peppered throughout the script. I found the characters trashy, annoying, and downright stupid. Among the worst scenes is when a father and son duo discover they are both having an affair with the same woman (Jamie Lee Curtis). At the scene of two women kissing (one of whom is engaged to a man), I walked out… I didn’t want to know where this movie was headed. Nobody should see this movie… I would rather watch “The Tigger Movie” 100 times in a row! My Ratings: [1½/1]
—Debbie Hopkins, age 18
Well, it was the first Friday of the month where my Christian brothers, sisters and I went to the movies to relax, laugh and forget about the hectic week. Being Christians, we didn’t want to see a movie that had too much violence or sex. So, we decided to see a kid’s movie, figuring that it should be pretty tame. Boy were we wrong! Even though there wasn’t any horror, gore or explicit sex scenes, the movie conveys a cavalier view towards human life.

Furthermore, the one young man who seemed to be tolerant of verbal abuse from Mona portrays himself to be virtuous, perhaps Christian. (He looks like a choir-boy in your church). Unfortunately, he has major problems of knowing right from wrong. With the whole town trying to kill itself off and a sheriff that doesn’t believe justice should be blind, I found this movie sending bad messages to our youth.

What’s scary about this movie versus any Rambo-type picture is that it wouldn’t take much of an effort to have a child or perhaps even an adult take on the attitudes and actions portrayed by many in this movie. My Ratings: [1/3]
—Philip Lefort, age 37