Drowning Mona is set in what I hope to God is the fictional town of Verplanck, N.Y., a sleepy little hollow that makes Mayberry look like Periclean Athens. With the possible exception of Danny DeVito's police chief, everybody in Verplanck is a few tools shy of a shed, and some of them may lack opposable thumbs. If the movie had any relationship to reality, it would be offensive; not since L'il Abner ran barefoot through the hills and hollers of Dogpatch have we been exposed to such a towering mound of white trash. Alas, the movie doesn't have a connection to reality, nor much of one to comedy. Bette Midler is the drowning Mona of the title, a woman so universally despised that when she turns up dead the whole town becomes a suspect, even her dim-bulb husband (William Fichtner) and her lights-out son (Marcus Thomas). In flashbacks, we see this bitch-on-wheels run over her various victims, and though Midler looks the part--floral-print stretch pants, a face that could stop a Mack truck--the script prevents her from shifting into overdrive. That goes for most of the actors. Only Will Farrell, sporting a plastered-down comb-over that may originate halfway down his back, generates consistent laughs.
Bad hair haunts Verplanck, like some kind of genetic defect. As the diner waitress who's shackin' up at the local no-tell motel with both Mona's husband and her son, Jamie Lee Curtis has a kind of '70s shag, with the tips dipped in purple dye. And Casey Affleck looks as if Bobby Sherman's old hair fell out of the sky and landed on his head. Affleck's character is the movie's moral center, a holy fool who wouldn't, and probably couldn't, hurt a flea. But thanks in part to Affleck's lackluster performance, the movie doesn't really have a moral center. Its creators are willing to do anything for a laugh except, you know, be funny.