Before watching the movie:
This was not well-released, not well-received, and perhaps not well made. But it looks fun enough, unless they managed to choke the fun out of it in the poor execution.
Steve Buscemi seems to be intended to be the most normal character in the story, which is a strange concept to me. He’s long been leaning into the eccentric roles his features attract, but I think he might be the straight man here.
After watching the movie:
A year after his mother’s death, Ed Chilton is still living under her shadow. He runs the family hardware store and lives with his uncle Benny, his mother’s brother. Ed refuses to change from the way his mother did things, and then a salesman comes to him claiming to sell Life. For only $1000, the Happy People Corporation will bring Ed’s mother back to life. However, once Ed’s mother is back, not only does it turn out that staying alive is dependent on her consuming living insects regularly, but she’s a little more eccentric now. Also, she’s getting in the way of Ed making a connection with the sexy neighbor who has a strange interest in Ed. And the man Ed’s mother put in prison for stealing from the store is out of jail and looking for revenge.
There are several stretches where the performances are very flat, but other times the material manages to rise. People looking for horror might be disappointed, but there is some amount of comedy here. I don’t find it in the subplot with the Reverend and his wife though, which is trying to run on pure audacity and just feels like it’s piling on irreverence for the sake of irreverence.
Ed is entirely a normal comedy protagonist. There wouldn’t be much difference if he was played by a Jeff Daniels or a Steve Carell, except maybe he might be a bit funnier. Everyone else is playing a pretty flat stock character, except possibly for John Glover’s Mr. Pattle, whose role is too strange to be stock.
Ed’s mother is actually so stock (before the eccentricities develop) that it’s hard to see the way she’s described in the way she’s performed. The story wants the audience to see her as a figure dominating Ed’s life, but there is only one line from her that really gives that impression, and one or two scenes with Ed before her return. The point of the story is Ed letting go of his mother, but it doesn’t feel like a process, it feels like a couple of moments that illustrate that, crazy stuff happening, and then Ed suddenly has already learned his internal lesson as he fixes the external shenanigans. It’s not a character arc, it’s a few snapshots of one along the way.
There are some good gags, there’s some interesting interplay, but it’s not fully baked. Not much pops, some scenes that could be hilarious feel rote. There’s a lot of pieces to like, but it doesn’t gel the way it seems like it was intended to.