By Rick Kisonak | February 6, 2007

I’ve been giving it a great deal of thought and come to the conclusion that the squandering of Diane Keaton’s screen legacy is without parallel in the annals of cinema. Has another performer trashed a great career as cavalierly, as deliberately, as unnecessarily?

Think about it: This is an actress who made immortal comedies alongside Woody Allen. “Play It Again Sam,” “Manhattan,” “Annie Hall,” for god’s sake, and the list goes on. Then she took an astonishing turn for the dramatic and did acclaimed work in some of the era’s most important films–“Reds,” “Looking For Mr. Goodbar” and a couple of pictures you may remember–“The Godfather I” and “II”.

How does one leave that sort of professional orbit and plummet fireball-style into the realm of “Baby Boom” and “Father of the Bride” without knowing one is doing so? And, if one knows, one is doing so by choice.

But there was much worse to come–“Town & Country,” “Hanging Up,” “The Family Stone” and now, “Because I Said So,” by far the most appallingly cretinous picture in which Keaton has ever appeared.

A by-the-numbers chick flick about a meddling mom who plays matchmaker for her youngest daughter (Mandy Moore), the movie lacks even trace amounts of originality or wit. No cliche of the genre goes untapped, no twist or turn of the plot untelegraphed. It’s every dumb romantic comedy ever made all rolled into one.

Keaton’s character takes out a personal ad, interviews a series of predictably geekish respondents and narrows the field down to a hunky but self satisfied architect (Tom Everett Scott). He and Moore hit it off but the young woman meets another, completely different sort of guy (Gabriel Macht) at about the same time and takes up with him too. He’s a musician and single father. He doesn’t make as much money as the architect but he’s more spontaneous and sensitive. Moore’s character is at this point the only person in the theater who does not know with 100% certainty which of the two she’ll choose.

And very likely the only one who cares. This is stunningly awful stuff, even for February. How sad to watch as Keaton resorts to slapstick again and again. For some reason never revealed to the audience, she is constantly carrying elaborate cakes from one place to another and, well, you know the “Bad Movie Rules.” Two of the most inviolable: If there’s a pool, someone will fall into it. If there are big fancy baked goods, they will be smooshed into faces, dropped on people’s heads and pratfallen upon. The actress’ latest features every conceivable variation on the Bad Movie cake gag and not a single one is amusing.

And before you offer the What do you expect, there aren’t any good roles for actresses past a certain age defense for the trajectory of the 61 year old’s career, consider the quality of the work being done these days by people like Julie Christie, Charlotte Rampling, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Diane Keaton’s problem isn’t the passing of time. It’s all the times she could and should have passed but didn’t.

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