1999, Movie, R, 111 mins


An inconsequential, sometimes amiable shaggy dog story about an unconventional young psychologist who blows into a neurotic little mountain hamlet and turns it upside down. Dr. Mumford (Loren Dean) has only been practicing in small-town Mumford (some coincidence, huh?) for four months, but he's already got established doctors Delbanco and Sheeler (David Paymer, Jana Adams) on the run. Mumford is the kind of guy people like talking to, and his from-the-hip observations are a refreshing alternative to the fuzzy language of self-empowerment and theraputic mumbo-jumbo. He's working wonders with the unhappy housewife (Mary McDonnell) who's on a 24-hour shop-a-thon; the teen (Zooey Deschanel) with the eating disorder and the pudgy pharamacist (Pruitt Taylor Vince) with the film noir-style sex fantasies. Lonely skateboard nerd Skip Skipperton (Jason Lee), who owns Panda Modem, the town's largest employer, is feeling a lot better about himself. And Mumford has just about worked a miracle with wan Sofie Crisp (Hope Davis), who's suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Of course, part of his devotion to her case is that he's fallen in love with her; this would present a larger ethical dilemma if he were really a psychologist. The fact that he's not a doctor comes with its own set of problems. It's also supposed to be a big surprise, but even if you didn't see it coming, the ads blow the secret. There are cute moments (none involving the pharmacist's dramatized, B&W daydreams about horny landladies, cheerleader nymphets and naughty nurses) and some very nice performances. All that's missing is a movie. Watching this string of sketches about small town wackos is like channel surfing a heavy sitcom zone: you wonder vaguely what preceded and what might follow the mild buffoonery, but you never find out and don't really care. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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