Friday, September 22, 2000

Whipped / * (2000)

Filmmakers have had no problem in the recent past pushing the envelope for tastelessness, and perhaps no other genre defines that attribute better than the infamous sex comedy. Traditionally directed at personas who relish in exertions that a more mature society might consider perverse or unspeakable, these often outrageous romps, being the pinnacle of all cinematic bad tastes, are also some of the most amusing and hilarious pictures in production today. The recent success of “American Pie” and “There’s Something About Mary,” for instance, may offer insight into why the moviegoers are now so attracted to pictures pushing buttons: each challenges the restrictions, yes, but are performed at a level of initiative where surprise, embarrassment, satire and cheerfulness (traditional qualities of any solid comedy) erupt from the mix. But “Whipped,” a new endeavor of similar approach, is none of those things; its childish, detached take on the consequences of womanizing is an unpleasant experience to sit through, not just because it fails to match the sexual extremities with a sense of humor, but because it’s just plain dumb.

The movie is completely without spirit and elation, told in a monotonous tone where the sexual elements are basically there to show off skin instead of offer laughs, and the characters are basically there to cuss at each other and gyrate their pelvises. It takes a typical male ritual—friends coming together to discuss their all of their recent sexual accomplishments—and gives it an unadorned twist. Four friends, each with their distinctive drawbacks, get together every Sunday at the local diner to discuss all of their recent success in getting women to sleep with them. Brad (Brian Van Holt) is an athletic stock broker who equates himself with Tom Cruise, Zeke (Zorie Barber) is egocentric but is pulled down by his less-than-stellar physique, Eric (Judah Domke) is the only married man of the group and tries to spur everyone’s interest in his sexual experiences with his wife (often to no avail), and Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams) is... well... a chronic masturbator with no social life.

The three men not tied down to marriage, who get more screen time than the fourth, each meet up with an attractive woman named Mia (Amanda Peet), who shares similarities with each of the parties and enjoys a periodic romp through the sheets. Only problem is, Mia starts relationships with all three of the men at the same time, taking turns with them like they were simply sex toys or something. The men are not put off by this at first, but the situation becomes troublesome further on, and their friendship is so obviously affected that they eventually inflict a certain amount of cruelty (not to mention an endless supply of profanity) into the scenario. In other words, the story is saying “what goes around comes around.”

The difficulty with accepting these characters is not the fact that they have all been drawn in radically opposing ways; in fact, that’s one of the very few high points here. What’s upsetting is that the movie gives them little opportunity to do anything noteworthy with their personalities, tossing them around with such ingratitude that we care nothing about them or their problems. The only positive energy is reflected off of (not surprisingly) the least important character Eric, who at least tries to match the activities of his friends by discussing what goes on in the marriage bed (with some sporadic amusing moments, I must admit). The other men, who are supposed to be intelligent and alert on the sexual base, essentially give into temptation here without any realization of the obvious: Mia is playing them like they play other women. A more believable approach would at least give them a certain amount of suspicion, but such an undertaking is the farthest thing from “Whipped”s warped mind.

This movie is so off-the-mark it’s not even funny (which puts an end to the possibility of it being one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks). Just forget I ever mentioned the darn thing.

Written by DAVID KEYES

Comedy (US); 2000; Rated R; 82 Minutes

Amanda Peet: Mia
Brian Van Holt: Brad
Judah Domke: Eric
Zorie Barber: Zeke
Jonathan Abrahams: Jonathan
Callie Thorne: Liz

Produced by Anthony Armetta, Zorie Barber, Brent Baum, Bo Bazylevski, Peter M. Cohen, Bradley Jenkel, Barry London, Taylor MacCrae, Jill Rubin and Andrew R. Shakman; Directed and screenwritten by Peter M. Cohen

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