Six Comedies from MGM
Love at First Bite (July 11/05)
Love at First Bite casts George Hamilton as the infamous Count Dracula, who finds himself temporarily homeless after being evicted from his Transylvanian home. Along with his loyal manservant Renfield (Arte Johnson), Dracula decides to head to New York City in search of a bride. It's not long before the Count settles on a fashion model named Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James), a supermodel that just happens to be a direct descendent of Mina Harker. Troubles emerge when Cindy's steady, psychiatrist Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin), takes it upon himself to stop Dracula - although the man apparently has no idea how to kill a vampire (he attempts to ward Dracula off with a Star of David at one point). While Hamilton is quite good in the central role, Love at First Bite comes off as a hopelessly dated oddity that's distinctly lacking in laughs - something that's exacerbated by the incredibly broad performances from the supporting cast.
National Lampoon's Class Reunion (July 9/05)
Aside from the fact that John Hughes wrote the screenplay (yep, that John Hughes), there's absolutely nothing memorable or worthwhile about National Lampoon's Class Reunion - a dreadfully unfunny and poorly acted would-be comedy. The story kicks off with a flashback to the early '70s, where a group of graduating seniors pull a rather cruel prank on the resident nerd (played by Blackie Dammett). Ten years later, the school holds a class reunion, where the aforementioned nerd decides to come back and get his revenge - by offing everyone that participated in the practical joke. It's clear that Hughes is going for a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker sort of vibe (it's surely no coincidence that Airplane! was released two years before this), stressing jokes and hijinks above all else - yet even with this rapid succession of gags, the movie remains a dead zone of laughs. It certainly doesn't help that the performers, in an effort to wring humor out of Hughes' screenplay, deliver larger-than-life, camera-winking performances that are mind-numbingly tedious. And for those hoping to catch an early glimpse of Hughes' signature emphasis on warmth and authentic characterizations will be sorely disappointed; Class Reunion comes off as nothing more than a cheap, amateurish attempt to cash in on the National Lampoon name.
National Lampoon's Movie Madness (July 9/05)
The folks at National Lampoon have released some awful movies over the years (ie Van Wilder, Gold Diggers, etc), but this is surely the worst. Comprised of three short films, Movie Madness attempts to satirize contemporary filmmaking cliches by taking a trio of genres and turning them into absurd, wildly over-the-top headscratchers (worse that that, they're completely pointless). The stories - in which a happily married man forces his wife to leave him in order for him to grow as a person, a stripper climbs to the top of a margarine empire, and a rookie cop discovers that apathy is preferable to enthusiasm - come off as nonsensical and meaningless; it's hard to imagine what the five credited writers (!) were thinking when they came up with these interminable skits. And despite a cavalcade of familiar faces - including Peter Riegert, Christopher Lloyd, Diane Lane, and Richard Widmark - Movie Madness remains a thoroughly unpleasant and unfunny experience.
no stars out of
The Party Animal (July 9/05)
That The Party Animal has garnered a cult following over the years is absolutely stunning, given just how shockingly bad and hopelessly inept the film is. The story revolves around a moronic college student who spends the majority of the movie trying in vain to sleep with someone, until finally inventing an aphrodisiac that literally makes him irresistible to women (and gay men). Written and directed by David Beaird, The Party Animal is that rare film that is completely devoid of positive attributes; there is virtually nothing here that works, from the cinematography to the acting to the editing (yep, even the editing is incompetently done). It's clear that Beaird just didn't have enough material to fill a 75-minute movie, and rather than developing characters or including a subplot, Beaird instead fills up screentime by throwing in a record number of musical montages set to increasingly insipid '80s pop songs. The so-called comedic aspects of the film fall flat, and it certainly doesn't come as a surprise to learn that star Matthew Causey hasn't appeared onscreen since (to call his performance obnoxious is a wild understatement). The Party Animal is less a movie and more an exercise in frustration, as it takes a fairly decent premise and squanders it continually and completely.
no stars out of
Teen Witch (July 10/05)
Teen Witch is a thoroughly unmemorable little film that's saved by a couple of genuinely funny sequences and Robyn Lively's ingratiating central performance. Lively stars as Louise Miller, a shy wallflower who - on her 16th birthday - discovers that she's actually a witch and can therefore just cast a spell to get whatever she wants. Without much hesitation, Louise makes herself the most popular girl at school and begins dating the hottest jock on campus (Dan Gauthier). But with great power comes great responsibility, and Louise soon discovers that being adored without question isn't quite as great as she might have hoped. It seems fairly obvious that Teen Witch has unapologetically been geared squarely towards teenaged girls, as the film seemingly represents the ultimate in wish-fulfillment for that age group. As a result, the film is packed with instances that only young females could appreciate - including a couple of inexplicable musical numbers (a couple of which feature characters rapping up a storm, '80s style), several shots of hunky Gauthier exercising topless, and a resolution that emphasizes the importance of self-confidence. Having said that, the film's midsection does contain a number of laughs as Louise takes advantage of her newfound power (ie she humiliates a cruel teacher by making him strip in front of the class). But, as the title indicates, there's not much else here to keep viewers over a certain age engaged.
Weekend at Bernie's (July 11/05)
Weekend at Bernie's might just be the ultimate wacky '80s comedy, as it sports a premise that could only exist in a film from that decade. Two hard-working schlubs - Larry (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman) - stumble upon a plot by someone to bilk their company out of millions of dollars, and report the finding to their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser). Unbeknowst to Larry and Richard, Bernie is actually the one embezzling from the company and convinces his mob buddies to take out the duo. But it's Bernie that the mob decides to eliminate, leaving Larry and Richard to discover his dead body. For reasons too complicated to get into here, both men decide to pretend that Bernie is still alive - a ploy that actually works, much to their surprise. While there are many chuckles to be had from Larry and Richard's hijinks with Bernie's corpse, the most surprising aspect of Weekend at Bernie's is how effective it is outside of those sequences. This can be attributed to Robert Klane's sharp screenplay and the chemistry between McCarthy and Silverman, which comes off as genuine; both actors play off each other exceedingly well, and it's their banter that provides some of the film's many unexpected laughs. And then there's Kiser's astounding performance as Bernie, in which the actor manages to make an indelible impression via body language and comedic facial expressions. Weekend at Bernie's isn't perfect - ie the film drags a little during its midsection - but for what it is and what it sets out to do, one couldn't ask for anything more.