Directed by Gregory Poirier
Cast: Jerry O'Connell, Shannon Elizabeth, Jake Busey, Horatio Sanz, Jaime Pressly, Bill Maher, David Ogden Stiers, Bernie Casey, Garry Marshall.
2001 95 minutes
Rated: (for profanity, sexuality, brief nudity, and cringe-inducing humor).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 31, 2001.
At this point in today's mainstream cinema, gross-out humor has become as prevalent as the appearance of Friday during each week. Last week's bid for yuks (as well as yucks) was "Say It Isn't So," and this week, it's "Tomcats," a raunchy-as-all-hell comedy written and directed by first-time filmmaker Gregory Poirier. Some of the material is very funny, to be sure, but much of it doesn't work because, like "Say It Isn't So," the editing isn't sharp enough to do the jokes complete justice. It doesn't help that a complete 20-minute portion of the movie forgets the premise and is solely devoted to the setup and payoff of a joke so gross it makes "Scary Movie" look relatively tame in comparison. Another 10-minute section sets up a dominatrix sequence involving an elderly woman that also has nothing to do with the story. There is a fine line between a movie that just so happens to be crass, and one whose only purpose is to turn stomachs.
The "plot" goes something like this: a group of male friends make a pact to make annual monetary contributions to a pot that will go to the one who remains single the longest, without getting married. By the time they hit 27, the pot has hit a cool half-million dollars, and only two of them have yet to tie the knot--Michael (Jerry O'Connell) and Kyle (Jake Busey). When Michael goes in debt after a bit of failed gambling in Vegas, he tracks down Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), the one woman Kyle has slept with in his life whom he had actual feelings for. Having lost her virginity to Kyle seven years before, only to be nastily spurned by him and left with only a roll of quarters to call a taxi, Natalie decides to help Michael out and give Kyle a taste of his own medicine. Their plan entails her managing to steal his heart (no easy feat for such a cold-hearted womanizer) and marrying him, only to quickly get it annulled and share half of the money Michael will receive. In the process, Michael begins to fall in love with Natalie himself.
Sharing certain similarities with 2000's despicable "Whipped," "Tomcats" is a step above that picture, but shares the same downfall: none of the characters are likable people. Michael may be the protagonist, and therefore the nicest guy to be found, but his foregoing conclusion that all women are merely sex objects is awfully shallow and distasteful, particularly for a young man in his late-twenties. Michael is played by Jerry O'Connell (1999's "Body Shots"), a bright-faced veteran actor best known for playing the chubby, scaredy-cat Vern in 1986's "Stand by Me." O'Connell runs with the part, and goes all out in embarrassing himself in certain scenes, but he can't overcome the fact that Michael isn't a particularly interesting or amiable individual.
If there is anyone to care about (and I use such a term loosely), it is Natalie, played with an undeniable sweetness by Shannon Elizabeth (2000's "Scary Movie"). Natalie is a police officer who also happens to be an enormously beautiful woman. She is smart, strong-willed, and doesn't put up with being disrespected by anyone, so it comes off as somewhat of a contradiction that she would waste her time helping Michael out with something so childish. If Natalie is harmed by the confines of the dumb, if ambitiously disgusting, screenplay, it is solely thanks to Elizabeth that she remains an intelligent girl.
If the idea of watching a big, hospital-set chase scene for an enlarged, cancerous testicle that concludes in a cafeteria sounds potentially funny, then "Tomcats" may be worth a look. It most certainly can't be criticized for a lack of energy, and is entertaining to a point, but one has to wonder how low this crude genre can possibly go before it stops being innocently fun and just becomes an example of pointlessly offensive bad taste. "Tomcats," more so than most of the other recent films of its ilk, treads dangerously close to becoming the latter.
©2001 by Dustin Putman