Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 25 - WITH HONORS (1994)

- Rated PG-13 for language and brief sensuality.
- Starring Joe Pesci, Brendan Fraser, Moira Kelly, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Hamilton
- Written by William Mastrosimone
- Directed by Alek Keshishian
- Running time: 1hr 42min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!) 

This one never interested me much.  I was 17 when this came out and I was heavy into the grunge scene.  The last thing I wanted to see was a bunch of yuppies whining about how bad they have it at Harvard.  But now that my mind is more open now, I gave it a look (also because Jessie Hoheisel picked it for the challenge).

Brendan Fraser is Monty, a student at Harvard.  He lives with 3 other students (that could be from MELROSE PLACE) in a really nice old house on campus.  Courtney (Kelly) is just one of the boys since she just likes to sleep around.  Everett (Dempsey) is supposed to be comic relief (I think) playing a disc jockey.  Jeffrey (Hamilton) is a conservative snob that is somehow friends with these easygoing people.  Monty is working on his thesis, so he's very stressed lately.  One day, he accidentally drops one of his thesis folder and it falls through some kind of crevasse and ends up in the basement of the campus library.  He sneaks in and finds that a bum named Simon (Pesci) is throwing pages of his thesis in the fireplace.  Monty gets him to stop, but Simon won't give him back his work.  But the bum makes a deal with the yuppy:  He will give him a page a day for food and shelter.  Eventually, Simon stays with Monty and his roommates (despite the disapproval of Jeffrey).  Of course, Monty and Simon become friends, while the bum wins his roommates over.  And it wouldn't be a feel good Hollywood movie without Simon actually being super smart and teaching the students lessons in life.

It must be because the time it was made, but this felt like a really bad spinoff of those awful twentysomething TV shows from the mid 90's like PARTY OF FIVE and MELROSE PLACE.  I hated those shows because non of the characters felt like real people.  Same fucking thing here!   Monty is not such a bad character, but his roommates are.  Every one of them felt like a cardboard cut out, hoping that a laugh track would follow every time they said a smart ass line to one another.  Yeah, I get it.  They can joke around with each other.   However, non of the dialogue felt natural or genuine.  So I already thought this movie was a stinker just when they introduced the 4 students.

But then Joe Pesci arrives!  Probably one of the most painfully cliched characters to be put on the big screen!  Every thing he says has some sort of homeless bullshit wisdom.  I didn't buy that Monty would ever be friends with him, I didn't buy that his roommates would grow to love him.  Come to think of it, I didn't buy anything in this phony movie.  There's a scene during the middle of the movie that tries to get us to root for Simon by having him outsmart a professor, but it just seems so ridiculous.

Fraser is okay,  but I never thought of him as a great actor as he was just kind of the "flavor of the month" for some of the 90's.  Moira Kelly is fine I guess as Courtney, but she's written so poorly.  And the romance between her and Monty couldn't have felt more force fed if you rammed it down with a jackhammer.  Patrick Dempsey is pretty damn bad here as a sort of goofball.  His character is probably the most underwritten and one dimensional.  Josh Hamliton is just a walking movie cliche as Jeffrey.  His character is so unlikable that you eventually get the idea that he was only added to the mix to cause friction, not because these people would actually hang out with him.

But the real travesty here is Pesci's God awful performance.  When he's dramatic, he's way too sappy, trying harder than he should to emote.  And then there are several moments when he tries to be the funny, goofy (but charming) character.  Isn't it charming to see a bum take a shit in the bathroom?  WOW!  I don't know what the hell Pesci was thinking or going for, but his line deliveries are downright embarrassing.  It sounded like he was trying to emulate the vocal pattern of W.C. Fields in many scenes, and it came across jaw droppingly bad: like I couldn't believe a filmmaker would let him do that!  He should've got the Razzie that year for worst actor.  He definitely deserved it.

This movie is predictable from scene one, though that wouldn't be a problem if it had a good script, good performances and solid direction.  But it doesn't.  And the ending!  Oh my God!  I hate it when a movie tries too hard to make you cry.  It's like the filmmakers are putting a gun to your head saying, "Cry!  This is sad Dammit!".  Well, yes it is sad.  But not because the movie is sad, but because the movie is garbage.

1/2 (out of ****)

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