Advice on How to Deal with Mother

Albert Brooks, Debbie Reynolds, Rob Morrow. Directed by Albert Brooks. Aspect ratio: 1:85:1. Dolby Surround. Two Sides. 104 minutes. 1996. Pioneer Entertainment LV 332473-W. Rated PG-13. $39.95.

Albert Brooks' latest excursion into the heart of mid-life neurosis is a simple tale of a newly divorced guy who decides all his troubles with women are due to his lousy relationship with Mom. The solution, he figures, is to close the chasm in this primal relationship with a mother-and-child reunion. You won't be surprised to learn that nothing goes according to plan when supreme neurotic John Henderson (Brooks) moves back into the nest. This character is such a headcase, he makes parking a car an existential crisis.

Debbie Reynolds delivers an Oscar-level performance as his seemingly normal mom, serving up soul-crushing criticisms with perfect, offhand matter-of-factness. Rob Morrow is nicely cast as the well-adjusted younger brother who is actually a pathological mama's boy. (Lisa Kudrow, of Cheers fame, has a small role as Henderson's hellish first post-divorce date.)

The cherubic Brooks might have Dick Clark Syndrome (an eternally youthful appearance), but he's been directing major Hollywood releases for almost two decades, and it shows. The cinematography is slick without being showy. Camera angles, lighting, and art direction are all subservient to action and story. Color in the transfer is excellent, with skin tones accurately rendered in faces flushing in embarrassment and clean, white eyeballs rolled heavenward in frustration.

The soundtrack is full of clever bits, like Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" morphed into "Mrs. Henderson" with appropriate new lyrics. The Beach Boys' "In My Room" and Wilson Pickett's "Land of a Thousand Dances" are also used to great comic effect. The sight of an over-40 guy dancing around in his underwear is . . . well, Brooks ain't exactly Tom Cruise.

There are no explosions other than those inside various characters' crania, but the dialog is clear and the voices are natural; even the sound of stale sherbet being slurped down unreceptive throats is disturbingly realistic.

If your familial relationships aren't all you'd like them to be, this movie is full of solutions that won't improve things a bit. Although Mother won't fix your life, it should add over an hour and a half of laughs to it.