Diane Keaton, Force of Nature

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Suzanne Tenner / Universal

Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore in Because I Said So

In romantic comedy, something has to (temporarily) dam up or divert the course of true love. The trouble is that by this time, most of the easily persuasive bars to happiness — class, marital status, and inattention bordering on sheet nuttiness — are either inoperable or used up. So give a certain credit to screenwriters Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson for coming up with a fresh new distraction: the meddling Mom.

She's ferociously, therefore funnily played in Because I Said So by Diane Keaton, who is unaccountably concerned with one of her three daughters' lack of romantic prospects, which is, come to think of it, rather odd. Milly is played by Mandy Moore, who is sensible, pretty, gainfully employed as the owner of a catering service and, aside from an annoying laugh, brought on by tension, as delectable as one of the dishes she purveys at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Benign neglect on the part of her mother strikes one as excellent option. But Keaton's Daphne is an up-and-doing sort of person and she's soon trolling the Internet for suitable mates, coming up with an architect called Jason (Tom Everett Scott), who is a little bit too tightly wound. She conducts her interviews with dating prospects in a restaurant under the amused eye of Johnny, the restaurant's guitar player (Gabriele Macht). His only visible defect is a tattoo on his hand. Otherwise, he is the modern beau ideal — soft-spoken, tolerant, not too ambitious , with (we soon learn) plenty of time for single-parenting his somewhat noxious child. To Daphne he is, of course, a loser, and she's appalled when he seeks out her daughter. Most of the movie is devoted to her attempts to fend off his excellent intentions.

OK, it's not much as premises go, but under Michael Lehman's relaxed but not inattentive direction, it'll do, especially as there are some nice little turns in the story. Johnny has an attractive father (Stephen Collins), who's capable of igniting a spark in Daphne, which at least relaxes some of her tension. One of Milly's sisters is a psychiatrist with a funny patient. There's even an unsolved mystery: What went wrong in Daphne's relationship with the girls' father? It must contain an explanation for her being such a busybody and it may have something to do with S-E-X. But the movie is not saying, and I think that's a good choice. It's better to see her as a force of nature than as a bundle of neuroses.

Romantic comedy does not require elaborate explanations of human behavior; the genre needs only to provide an efficient resolution of some silly situation that none of the characters — if only they thought it through for a minute or rationally talked it over — should be in. It is nice, of course, for them to wear good clothes, live in pretty places and offer up the occasional funny line. This is not much to ask, but it is surprising how often these modest boons are withheld from the yearning audience. Because I Said So is not a divine lunacy like, say, Bringing Up Baby. Its rooted more in the realm of TV sitcoms than in the movies. But if you don't expect too much of it, you may find yourself pleasantly — all right, soothingly — surprised by it.