Drowning Mona is a 2000 American crime comedy film starring Danny DeVito as Wyatt Rash, a local police chief from Verplanck, New York, who investigates the mysterious death of Mona Dearly, a spiteful, hard-drinking, loud-mouthed, abusive woman, hated by all who knew her, who drove her son's car off a cliff and drowned in a river. The film had received negative reviews from critics.

Drowning Mona
Drowning Mona.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNick Gomez
Produced byAl Corley
Written byPeter Steinfeld
Music byMichael Tavera
CinematographyBruce Douglas Johnson
Edited byRichard Pearson
Distributed byDestination Films
Release date
  • March 3, 2000 (2000-03-03)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$37 million
Box office$15.9 million[1]


The film's first scene shows Mona Dearly (Bette Midler) leaving her home and trying in vain to unlock her car. Her keys fit her son's car, however, so she takes that and drives off. In a bend, the brakes fail completely and she drives off a cliff into the Hudson River. This is observed by Clarence (Tracey Walter), who is fishing there. Chief Wyatt Rash (Danny DeVito) later observes that there are no skid marks on the road.

Her long-suffering husband Phil (William Fichtner) and son, Jeph (Marcus Thomas), evince no particular grief when they learn of the death of Mona, an abusive, belligerent heavy drinker, loved by none. (Jeph is more concerned about his car.)

Ellie Rash (Neve Campbell) (Wyatt's daughter) wants to celebrate because she feels the Dearlys treated Bobby (Casey Affleck), her fiancé and Jeph's business partner, badly. JB Landscaping is not doing well due to Jeph's laziness and poor behavior.

Phil and Rona (Jamie Lee Curtis), who are having an affair, meet at the Charm Motel. Phil expresses his happiness about Mona's death but denies involvement. Bobby meets Murph (Mark Pellegrino), his older brother. Due to his financial difficulties, Bobby has been receiving money from Murph, who thinks he had a hand in Mona's death.

Wyatt's investigation takes him to Jeph, who claims that Bobby threatened and attacked Mona. Lucinda (Kathleen Wilhoite), the local mechanic specializing in the Yugo (which everyone in town drives) informs Wyatt that the car that Mona was driving (Jeph's car) had been tampered with in multiple ways.

Phil tells Wyatt that he had been a battered husband since Mona suspected he was having an affair. He also claims Jeph and Mona had had an argument on the evening before the accident. Bobby tells Wyatt that he hated Mona and that they had had an argument over Jeph's pay. Mona would not let him dissolve the partnership unless Bobby bought them out. Phil and Jeph leave Mona's wake very early.

Meanwhile, Wyatt breaks into the Dearly house and finds that Mona's and Jeph's car keys had been switched. Phil expresses his gratitude to Bobby for killing Mona. Bobby then confesses to Ellie that he rigged Jeph's car, because Jeph was destroying their business. Ellie then announces that she is pregnant. This conversation is overheard by Clarence.

Phil tells Wyatt that he spotted Bobby near the Dearly residence on the night prior to the accident, claiming that he did not say this earlier because Wyatt and Bobby are soon to be family. Jeph, who it turns out is also involved with Rona, finds out about Phil's affair with her. Bobby tells Wyatt that Mona threatened him, not the other way around, and that he was in the Hideaway the evening before the accident, which, as Valerie[who?] tells Wyatt, is not true. Murph later tries to cover Bobby on this. Valerie also gives him a sharp gardening tool with the letters "JB" on it.

Phil is discovered dead in a pond at the Charm Motel. Murph tells this to Ellie, who fears that Bobby, who left their house that night, has killed again. When Rona finds out, she tries to leave town. A flashback shows Jeph not helping Phil when he fell into the water after Phil threatened Jeph that he was going to expose Jeph, Rona, and Bobby.

The police learn that Jeph is threatening suicide because of Rona's leaving. Jeph reveals that a drunken Mona had, accidentally but unrepentantly, chopped off his right hand when they fought over a bottle of beer. He also states that Phil was not his biological father, adding that, despite all that, he did not kill either of them. Wyatt manages to take the gun away from Jeph.

Wyatt then tells Bobby in private that Clarence confessed to killing Phil, because he could not stand the idea of Bobby going to jail, especially with the baby on the way. A flashback shows Clarence watching Phil, who had seen Bobby rig the car, tampering with it some more and then switching the keys in the house. It transpires that the initial tampering by Bobby had been superficial and did not contribute to the accident, but Phil's did.

Wyatt promises Bobby to keep quiet about Bobby's involvement as long as he takes good care of Ellie and the baby. In the final scene, Bobby and Ellie get married and Clarence gets taken away.



On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 29% based on 76 reviews, and an average rating of 4.41/10. The critical consensus reads, "Despite Danny De Vito's top billing, Drowning Mona drowns itself in humor that never rises about sitcom level. Contributing to the Mona's problems is that the characters are never really interesting, and there is a noticeable lack of energy in the character roles."

Box officeEdit

The film opened at #4 at the North American box office making $5.8 million USD in its opening weekend behind My Dog Skip, The Next Best Thing and The Whole Nine yards. Ultimately, however, the box office gross was an impressive $15.9 million compared with a budget of $6 million.[citation needed]

Awards and nominationsEdit


  • ALMA Awards: Outstanding Director of a Feature Film (Nick Gomez)


  1. ^ "Drowning Mona at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2010-09-29.

External linksEdit