The devil doesn't get enough of his due in the would-be horror romp "Idle Hands," which will be most remembered as the 1999 movie that tried and failed to push Devon Sawa to the front of the teen-star class.

The devil doesn’t get enough of his due in the would-be horror romp “Idle Hands,” which will be most remembered as the 1999 movie that tried and failed to push Devon Sawa to the front of the teen-star class. This demographically correct project is too calculated by half and underwritten by about as much, as witlessly unaware of its faltering sense of comedy as its stoner-dude heroes are of everyday reality. “Hands” has such an iron grip on its targeted young male audience that it’s scary, but overall theatrical and ancillary returns will be dampened by the harsh fact that the horror-comedy genre is in rather gory decay.

Speaking of gore, former Roger Corman alum Rodman Flender’s pic gleefully overflows with it, upping the ante, reel by reel. Unlike the Kevin Williamson school of scary, Flender and writers Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer veer away from verbal comedy and horror tease for the full bloody enchilada — on a budget.

The film seems to promise some real fun as Fred Willard and Connie Ray appear as the ill-fated mom and dad of affablepothead Anton (Sawa), who’s unaware that the folks have been done in by the Thing Under the Bed.

What Anton doesn’t know is that the devil, eager to possess the laziest person around, really is finding work for idle hands. Why it’s Anton and not his equally slackerish fellow stoners Mick (Seth Green) and the inexplicably named Pnub (Elden Henson) is anyone’s guess, but that’s only the start of the pic’s arbitrariness. Again for no reason, the devil possesses Anton’s right hand, as if Dr. Strangelove’s choking gloved hand went on a murder spree in the hyper ’90 s. Mick and Pnub fall victim too, but rise from the dead as hapless aides in Anton’s hand-to-hand battle (typical of the movie’s sophomoric humor is the fatal broken beer bottle, which sticks out of zombified Mick’s forehead for the rest of the movie).

The plot further dumbs down with the entry of obligatory love interest Molly (Jessica Alba), whose blissful obliviousness to Anton’s plight stops being funny and becomes idiotic, while determined demon hunter Debi (Vivica A. Fox) maps the devil’s stratagem right to Anton’s suburban street — with much-too-convenient help from satanic rock fan Randy (Jack Noseworthy). As required of all Hollywood teen movies, the climax occurs in and around the high school dance.

Perhaps thinking he had a farce to play with, Flender encourages tons of mugging; by overplaying what should be underplayed, helmer and cast deliver a fatal stab to the intended comedy-horror. Sawa seems much too smart an actor to fall into this trap, but he’s also forced by the material into embarrassing antics. Green’s and Henson’s perfs end up being a bit more fun, particularly when the decapitated Pnub’s head is a contented entity unto its own, while digitally talented actor Christopher Hart steals all the best moves as the runaway Hand. Alba and Fox are merely doing time here and, like Noseworthy, are essentially plot puppets.

Pic is, hands down, a showcase for makeup designers Greg Cannom and Keith Vanderlaan, while other tech credits are merely serviceable, including a stock electric-guitar score from Graeme Revell.

Idle Hands

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation of a Licht/Mueller Film Corp. and Team Todd production. Produced by Andrew Licht, Jeffrey A. Mueller, Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd. Executive producer, Jeffrey Sudzin. Directed by Rodman Flender. Screenplay, Terri Hughes, Ron Milbauer.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor; Deluxe prints); Christopher Baffa; editor, Stephen E. Rivkin; music, Graeme Revell; music supervisor, John Houlihan; production designer, Greg Melton; art director, Roland G. Rosenkrantz; set designer, Scott Herbertson; set decorator, Evette Frances Knight; sound (Dolby/DTS/SDDS), Joseph Geisinger; VCE visual effects, Peter Kuran; special makeup effects, Greg Cannom, Keith Vanderlaan; assistant director, Christian P. Della Penna; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, April 20, 1999. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Anton - Devon Sawa
Mick - Seth Green
Pnub - Elden Henson
Molly - Jessica Alba
The Hand - Christopher Hart
Debi - Vivica A. Fox
Randy - Jack Noseworthy
Tanya - Katie Wright
McMacy - Sean Whalen
Ruck - Nick Sadler
Dad - Fred Willard
Mom - Connie Ray
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