“Maggie Moore(s)” is the best argument against marriage because, well, the husband(s) Always Done. The Not Quite Crime centers on a possibly somewhat true story — it even opens with the disclaimer that “some of this stuff really happened” — about two women with the same name who are both killed to cover up the another murder. Think an episode of “Columbo” mixed with “Strangers on a Train,” but in the context of a comedy of misunderstandings. And unfortunately, some of these mistakes are due in part to a lackluster script by “Hollywoodland” scribe Paul Bernbaum, whose biggest claim to fame is the iconic film “Halloweentown,” which sadly has more suspense elements than ” Maggie Moore.” ”
John Slattery directs the film, the second after the 2014 drama “God’s Pocket,” with his “Mad Men” colleague Jon Hamm playing the perfect small-town police chief who is tasked with finding out what really happened to both Maggies. The running joke of both deaths being anything but homicides is the film’s strongest punch line, which also stars a decent Tina Fey as a nosy neighbor turned key witness (and Hamm’s love interest). Nick Mohammed plays Hamm’s cop partner, bringing the same irritated energy as “Ted Lasso.”
What could have been an easy-going crime comedy relies instead on a strange plot involving child pornography (not that funny to laugh at) and a somewhat twisted case involving husband number one, Jay Moore (Micah Stock), who he’s cutting corners with his sub spot sandwich franchise and gets entangled in a pedophilia ring. When his wife Maggie discovers photos of underage girls, she threatens to use them as a level in their impending divorce. Jay hires deaf hitman Kosco (Happy Anderson) to scare his wife; instead, Kosco kidnaps her, kills her, and sets fire to her car to char her body.
Enter: the second Maggie Moore (Mary Holland) as cover death. Who knows, maybe there really AND a serial killer targeting Maggie Moores on the loose, Jay wonders. At least this element works at a basic plot level, as Stock’s character is a moron and nobody pretends it makes sense otherwise.
The film’s strongest argument is, bizarrely, against the very institution of marriage, as Maggie’s second husband wanted her dead anyway, all the better to get away with his $700,000 life insurance policy and his bartender mistress . (Hamm is widowed, Fey is divorced, and both appear to be in the happiest relationship in the film.)
The small-town “aw shucks” vibe to it all, complete with Hamm seen as the most eligible bachelor around, ultimately codifies “Maggie Moore(s)” as more of a rom-com than a murder mystery. But weighed down by a clichéd screenplay and tired acting, the film doesn’t quite fit into either genre. “Maggie Moore(s)” is a nice way to spend a couple of hours in transit on a plane; otherwise, the only real death that sticks is two hours of your precious movie viewing time.
“Maggie Moore(s)” premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. Screen Media will release the film in theaters on Friday, June 16.