Review: ‘Whipped’

Whipped

Grotesquely smutty and obnoxiously overbearing, this is a pitiful excuse for a comedy; you know you're at the end of the summer, and the bottom of the barrel, when something this bad gets a wide theatrical break.

Grotesquely smutty and obnoxiously overbearing, this is a pitiful excuse for a comedy; you know you’re at the end of the summer, and the bottom of the barrel, when something this bad gets a wide theatrical break.

Written and directed with stunning crudity by newcomer Peter M. Cohen, pic is the latest in a seemingly endless line of indie ensemble pieces about unenlightened yuppie guys on the make. The male leads in comedies of this sort are typically overgrown adolescents who don’t know what to make of the women they try to make. Truth to tell, they find it much easier to bond and converse with other guys in their small circle.

In “Whipped,” the guys aren’t merely sexist, or even misogynist — they’re downright misanthropic. Indeed, you have to take it on faith that they’re longtime buddies, because they certainly don’t appear to like each other much. Their speech and behavior indicate that they aren’t human beings at all but rather fantasy figures imagined by some sexually frustrated and socially maladroit 15-year-old boy. Worse, they are relatively well-to-do white guys who try to sound like uptown gangstas while trading insults or talking about women.

It’s hard to say which of them is the most annoying. Brad (Brian Van Holt) is a Wall Street hotshot who’s inordinately proud of his ability to “scam” beauties into bed. Zeke (Zorie Barber) is an affected East Village artsy type who hangs around in coffee shops to snag young lovelies. Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams) is an over-eager milquetoast who occasionally — well, OK, better make that rarely — enjoys a wild sexual escapade. More often, though, he devotes his free time to devising and perfecting new techniques for masturbation.

All three men brag of their studly misadventures, much to the envious delight of Eric, their married friend (Judah Domke, who plays the part with enough tics and twitches to suggest the early stages of some neurological disorder).

Complications arise when Brad, Zeke and Eric fall for the same woman, the improbably accommodating sexpot Mia (Amanda Peet). Mia presents herself as being every bit as uninhibited and frankly promiscuous as the three men in her life. Not surprisingly, she isn’t quite what she seems. Even less surprisingly, the old friends become bitter rivals as they vie for exclusive rights to Mia.

The characters are uniformly unlikable, which makes their crude humor and coarse language all the more drearily unpleasant. To their discredit, the actors sink to the level of Cohen’s screenplay. The performances are so lacking in wit, charm and restraint that “Whipped” seems at least a half-hour longer than its padded 82 minutes. Even Peet, who grabbed attention with her saucy spunk and Cinemascope smile in “The Whole Nine Yards,” is abrasively off-putting. She should consider herself lucky that “Yards” — which was actually filmed after “Whipped” — hit theaters first.

Here and there, you can spot telltale signs — a movie marquee here, an ad campaign there — that “Whipped” was shelved for an extended period before seeing the first light of a theater projector. Some gross-out gags might have raised eyebrows had pic been released a year or so ago. In the wake of “Road Trip,” “Nutty Professor II” and “Scary Movie,” however, “Whipped” seems tepid, stale and, occasionally, more than a little desperate.

Except for a soundtrack stuffed with familiar pop tunes, tech values are negligible. When he isn’t ripping off “Diner” by repeatedly placing his male leads around their favorite table at a neighborhood restaurant, Cohen gets tricky with jump cuts, hand-held cameras and documentary-style “interviews” with his characters. But nothing helps.

Whipped

U.S.

Production

A Destination Films release of a Hi-Rez Films production. Produced by Peter M. Cohen. Executive producers, Anthony Armetta, Taylor MacCrae, Barry London, Brent Baum, Brad Jenkel. Co-producers, Zorie Barber, Andrew R. Shakman.

Crew

Directed, written by Peter M. Cohen. Camera (Technicolor), Peter B. Kowalski; editor, Tom McArdle; production designer, Katherine M. Szilagyi; costume designer, Karen Kozlowski; art decorator, Svetlana Rabey; set decorator, Colette Miller; music, Michael Montes; music supervisors, Budd Carr, Tami Lester; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Antonio Arroyo; associate producer, Bo Bazylevsky; casting, Jodi Collins. Reviewed at Edwards Cinema MarqE, Houston, Aug. 30, 2000. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Mia - Amanda Peet Brad - Brian Van Holt Eric - Judah DomkeM Zeke - Zorie Barber Jonathan - Jonathan Abrahams Liz - Callie Thorne
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