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A meddlesome affair Diane Keaton plays a matchmaker who tries to marry off her youngest daughter.

At some time during the past 20 years, Diane Keaton found the Fountain of Youth.

It's not that her face has been stretched and stitched into a masklike perfection. Keaton is not hiding her lines and wrinkles, no matter what kind of age-perfect cosmetics line she may be hawking on television. Instead, the always-beautiful Keaton has a youthful aura radiating from her passion, self-confidence and sense of humor.

How perfect she is, then, to play the role of Daphne Wilder in "Because I Said So." Keaton infuses a warm, genuine spirit into Daphne, a single mother trying to marry off her youngest daughter while dealing with her approaching 60th birthday. Daphne is an attractive, mature woman with "impeccable taste," who, while she may yearn for what she has missed in life, doesn't pretend to be 30. (Or 40, or even 50.) And that's very integral to a story that is about finding love, happiness and fulfillment at any age.

The movie's opening montage quickly takes viewers through the weddings of Daphne's two older daughters -- psychologist Maggie (Lauren Graham) and sexy Mae (Piper Perabo). Her youngest daughter, the serious, but adorable caterer Milly (Mandy Moore), is still single because she's met all the wrong men.

Overbearing but loving, Daphne decides to fix the situation by finding the perfect man for Milly through an online dating service. She places a long-winded online note to perspective suitors and sets up meetings in a restaurant. "You'll know me by my polka dots," Daphne says. (She's not kidding -- her polka-dot dress is so loud, it screams for attention. Fashion, in fact, is a big part of this movie. The actresses seem to have brought much of themselves into what their characters wear -- you'll notice Keaton's trademark pearls, gloves and wide belts for instance. And I swear Graham is wearing some of her clothes, especially a wrap dress, she wears in "Gilmore Girls.")

Cue the cliched montage of unsuitable suitors -- the biker, the punk rocker, the transvestite, the guy with bad teeth, another with piggish manners. Daphne is at 17 "interviews" and counting when she's rescued by Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a handsome musician performing in the lounge. He's nice, but he won't make Daphne's cut. To her, he's "a gorgeous musician who is going to break her daughter's heart."

"I love being broken down to a cultural cliche," Johnny responds. (This guy is a charmer.)

But wait -- there's one more guy who has been patiently waiting his turn. Jason (Tom Everett Scott) is a head turner. He's the walking example of tall, dark and handsome. An architect in a nice suit, he knows how to order fine food, loves to travel and knows how to compliment a woman. "You've got to love a woman in a polka dot dress. Not everyone can pull it off," he says to Daphne. (Is he serious or making fun of her?)

Jason is perfect to Daphne, who is blinded to the fact that perfect may not be what's best for her daughter. Even Johnny understands that. "He has empty eyes," he tells Daphne about Jason.

It takes the audience a split second to see where all this is going, but we'll have to wait another hour for the mating game to play out as Milly hooks up (literally) with both guys, argues a lot with meddlesome mom and finally comes to an understanding of what's in her own heart. Maybe, along the way, Daphne will even be able to open her heart to a new person.

"Because I Said So," a film in a dead heat with "Catch and Release" for the worst movie title of the year, suffers from cliched set-ups (how many more times do we have to see someone accidentally hooking into an internet porn site?) and too much laughter from juvenile situations (a child speaking about the female anatomy, a dog humping a chair).

It also may have you scratching your head about all the fuss being made about marrying off a character who is barely in her 20s. The obvious large age gap between the sisters (Moore is 21, Perabo 30 and Graham 40), only emphasizes the point that mom shouldn't be so worried that the youngest of her three daughters is still single.

Forgive those flaws. "Because I Said So" is also a genuinely sweet romantic comedy that is quite easy to enjoy. The script by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson nicely balances the romantic story lines with that of the powerful -- and often rocky -- relationship between mothers and daughters. Many of the scenes are solely with Keaton and Moore, who shine as they work off each other perfectly. In fact, through her film work, Moore quietly continues to distance herself from the wild child starlets making the tabloids daily.

It's not only Keaton and Moore who work well together -- the entire cast has been beautifully put together. Moore, Perabo and Graham are believeable as three sisters with distinct personalities and the affection between all of the women is palpable.

As the men vying for Milly's heart, Macht and Scott present charming but flawed characters, a very human combination. (Women in the audience will fall a bit in love with each.) The unexpected arrival of Johnny's father in the form of Stephen Collins ("7th Heaven") is the icing on the cake. Though his scenes with Keaton are too few, they are touching and hilarious.

"Because I Said So" is not only an entertaining date movie, but also a film that mothers and daughters, as well as women on a gals' night out, can enjoy -- a fitting attribute for a movie with a big heart that's all about love and family.



>Movie Review

Because I Said So
Review: Three stars (out of four)
Starring Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Stephen Collins, Lauren Graham

Directed by Michael Lehmann

Rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity.
Opening Friday in area theaters.

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