'Helicopter Mom' just barges into the room

Nia Vardalos is a 'Helicopter Mom'; ideas hover but never really land

Get past the wince-inducing premise of "Helicopter Mom," in which an overbearing mother outs her sexually undeclared son as gay so that he qualifies for a college scholarship, and you're still stuck with a forced comedy that mines uneasy humor from stale stereotypes.

Voted "Most Involved" in her old high school yearbook, title character Maggie Cooper (Nia Vardalos) takes that status to heart as a constant embarrassment to her son Lloyd (Jason Dolley), whose sexual identity issues are considered a done deal by his banner-waving mom.

Directed by Salomé Breziner from a dated script by Duke Tran, the film's idea of pro-LGBT dialogue takes the form of one-liners like "My son's not gay — he doesn't like pesto!"

Those groaners prove trying for the typically effervescent Vardalos, who's often portrayed in exaggerated close-ups that serve to push her character from wildly inappropriate to wildly unsympathetic.

Stripped of all the broad shtick, there are tender moments to be found in candid conversations between Lloyd and his aging rocker dad (nicely played by "Sons of Anarchy's" Mark Boone Junior). Those scenes are so tonally dissimilar from everything else they feel like they could have been part of a different movie.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking.


"Helicopter Mom"

MPAA rating: None 

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.

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