The skyline of Manhattan appears. George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue“ sets in. But then the camera pans back and we see: It's all just cardboard cut-outs, posted on a wall. Even more than in Woody Allen's famous opening sequence, it's more the dream of a city than the city itself. Chris Gooch as writer/director and Robbie Morrison as writer/editor explore this unexplainable longing for the big city in their brilliant ten minute animated short MUMMY’S BOY. And they deftly reveal that sometimes, cardboard cut-outs are all your mother will let you have of your dreams.
It starts out harmless enough, the digital animation looks sort of wooden in itself, as does the small family home in the middle of the woods where the son does the dreaming and his mom secretly studies DIY building books. When the day finally comes that not even her passive aggressive reverse psychology can hold him back any longer, he leaves for the Big Apple. If he can make it there, he can make it anywhere. He has to cross some dark woods before, a veritable Hammer Horror homage, before he arrives in… what exactly? Let's say a cardboard cut-out version of a big city. The irony of this image is as beautifully constructed as that massive ghost town – he wouldn't know the difference anyway.
But the illusion can't hold for long: At first he doesn't realise that all the singular characters he meets sport a white bun of hair under their helmets or caps; he also doesn't realize that not only is there nothing behind the façades of the shops and houses – the façades themselves are only painted on. And when the hotel room looks surprisingly like his own bedroom at home, and French cuisine consists of the same dull carrots he gets at his mom's, he figures this whole big city experience is shaping up to be a major disappointment. He might as well have stayed home. But the road home is just an illusion as well.
What starts as a bizarre family conflict more and more takes on the taste of a massive, absurd conspiracy, in which Sigmund Freud's overbearing mother meets Jean Baudrillard's simulacra and simulation. Which leaves us thinking about Charlie Kaufmans insane SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK as well as another Woody Allen movie, his short film OEDIPUS WRECKS, about a young man who's recently deceased overbearing mother appears as a giant face in the sky subsequently commenting and controlling every aspect of his life. MUMMY’S BOY is indeed fit to be mentioned alongside these masterpieces, since the film's brilliant set-up is milked for all it's worth – and that's quite a lot. The mother's massive building project and subsequent decision to act out every single urban character herself is glorious in its grandiosity, pathetic in its comic impracticability and heart-breaking in its desperate motivation to keep her son to her self. The filmmakers expertly play with the viewer's emotions and expectations, as we wish for the son to finally gain his freedom and at the same time for the mother to be granted her wish to stay close to her boy. As the witty polaroids at the end titles reveal, they might both get their wishes. And we as an audience have enjoyed every minute of this grotesquely funny psychological fairy tale anyway.
Interview with Robbie Morrison
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