#066

American Wedding Unrated
Universal DVD

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The last installment of the American Pie franchise opens with a bang – a cringingly funny little scene where hapless Jim (Jason Biggs) is being covertly pleasured under the table in a restaurant by his eager girlfriend Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) while his dad (Eugene Levy) gives him a pep talk about popping the question. Much hilarity ensues.

If you were looking for any serious meaning buried in the success of the American Pie films, it might have something to do with the porn industry’s unremarkable infiltration into the American suburb.

How else do you explain the infamous “bachelor party” scene, with its silicone-enhanced “performers”, or Jim’s obsession with pube-shaving? The latter sequence is in keeping with the American Pie mandate: Humiliate Jim and his friends at regular intervals; much hilarity will ensue. The former, however, is a deliriously edited digression into some dank collegiate id, the farthest outpost of the “Stiflerization” of the series.

Seann William Scott’s foul-mouthed, libidinous Stifler was quickly recognized as the series’ real attraction, and the producers of American Wedding put the film so far in hock to Stifler that the film has a Jekyll and Hyde dynamic, erupting into crotch-grabbing fits whenever his character appears onscreen.

Scott’s Stifler, given as much onscreen real estate as he needs, actually seems demented. It’s a shame, since the real emotional and comedic engine of the series is provided by Eugene Levy’s awkwardly affectionate relationship with his son Jim.

Comes with bonus featurettes on “Stifler Speak”, as well as the infamous bachelor party and pube-shaving scenes.

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S.W.A.T.
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD

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The original 70s TV series that inspired S.W.A.T. was cancelled in its second season, the victim of a crusade against TV violence. Twenty-five years later, it’s amazing how many movie cast members have fond memories of the series – the bonus material includes a montage of them singing its memorable theme.

Clark Johnson’s tribute to the original series is a lesson in just how banal onscreen violence has become in a generation – S.W.A.T. beats, bludgeons, shoots, blows up and beheads cast members with abandon, but it’s nothing more than a competent, unremarkable action flick with a better than average cast. Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson play the tough LAPD veterans who lead a bunch of maverick rookies on their first mission – transporting a French drug kingpin into federal custody after he’s offered $100 million to whomever can free him.

There are firefights and doublecrosses and spectacular stunts, but it all feels like an unremarkable bit of entertainment. There’s something ironic about that, something that makes you suspect that whoever got S.W.A.T. cancelled all those years ago might have had a point.

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Freaky Friday
Disney DVD

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Disney’s remake of an early Jodie Foster film about a mother and daughter switching bodies would have gone the way of their Flubber remake if it weren’t for a decent script and the performances of Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in the lead roles. The dialogue is remarkably brisk and the premise gets sold well, particularly by Curtis, who has an obvious ball playing a 15-year old stuck in a middle-aged woman’s body. Includes the usual menu of music videos, blooper and bonus scenes, and a backstage video diary with Lohan.

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Jeepers Creepers 2
MGM DVD

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You don’t need to know that Jeepers Creepers director Victor Salva is a convicted pedophile to recognize something deeply twisted in this sequel to his 2001 horror hit.

An otherworldly demon called the Creeper is hunting the countryside looking for body parts. The breakdown of a bus full of high school football players on a deserted stretch of road is all the scene-setting the film requires. Having exposed the creature in the first film, Salva gets down to business early, showing the monster – a humanoid bat, basically – as he ogles the frightened passengers of the bus, choosing his victims with unmistakably sexual relish.

The sexual confusion of adolescence is the blatant subtext, and Salva plays on it as skillfully as you’d expect from a pedophile. Horror films are supposed to inspire a shudder of revulsion, but Jeepers Creepers 2 invokes that shudder with disturbing avidity. Comes with a full menu of commentary tracks and “making of” features.

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Anything Else
Dreamworks DVD

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Jason Biggs is the Woody Allen stand-in, and Christina Ricci the latest in a long line of difficult females that began with Louise Lasser and Diane Keaton, in Allen’s new comedy about – pardon me if this sounds familiar – a death-obsessed comedy writer in love with both New York City and his basketcase girlfriend.

Allen’s films have become steeped in bitterness since his heyday with Annie Hall and Manhattan, but it was more appropriate to dramas like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah And Her Sisters. The last decade of Allen comedies have each been more dire than the last, and Anything Else is only the most mean-spirited of the bunch.

It’s telling that Allen appears as a paranoid older writer who becomes Biggs’ mentor, bursting into the plot to harangue his doppelganger for being gullible and pitiably needy, a victim of his romantic narcissism. It’s as if Allen’s self-loathing has finally fermented into a poisonous cloud that radiates from the screen. No bonus features.

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The Ben Stiller Show
Warner Bros. DVD

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“Who would cancel a show that parodies Ron Perlman?” This question gets asked by one of the writers of the ill-fated Ben Stiller Show, a sketch comedy program that got cancelled by Fox after 12 episodes in 1993. Indeed, who wouldn’t find a bad impression of the star of Alien Resurrection and The City Of Lost Children a laff-riot?

That was an ironic question, by the way, and suitable to a show like Stiller’s, which was purely a product of the early 90s, grunge-drenched age of irony. Ten years later, Stiller, his writers and fellow cast members – which featured Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk – can laugh about the show’s doomed history on this two-disc set’s commentary tracks, but at the time it must have been excruciation to work on a program that clung so tenaciously to life, scheduled in a time slot opposite 60 Minutes and last in the ratings.

The show has its moments – ongoing parodies of Bono and Bruce Springsteen are highlights – and a sketch imagining Cape Fear with Eddie Munster in the Mitchum/De Niro role has become a bit of a comedy legend.

©2003 rick mcginnis all rights reserved.