Timed to feed off the spread of spring break randiness, “Tomcats” is a boner-headed comedy whose sense of gross-out humor is calculated rather than inspired. This strained collection of R-rated riffs aims for Farrelly Bros./”American Pie”-style lewd lunacy but doesn’t have a natural feel for it, which leaves the majority of the gags hanging like dirty laundry from a frayed clothesline. All the same, a potent campaign conveying more titillation and sex than are actually in the movie spells a quick and tidy payday for Sony.
Pic reps a return for Revolution Studios topper Joe Roth to “Revenge of the Nerds” territory, although it’s fair to say that, while it will certainly be profitable, “Tomcats” is scarcely the most distinguished imaginable fare with which to introduce the Revolution logo. Budget was $11 million, but threadbare AIP-level production values raise occasional doubts that it could have been that high.
Boys-will-be-boys setup involves a wager among a group of friends that will see the “last man standing,” i.e., the final unmarried guy, rake in a substantial pot. Seven years after it’s created, the kitty amounts to nearly half a million bucks thanks to shrewd investments, and the competition is down to two confirmed bachelors: Michael (Jerry O’Connell) is a cute cartoonist whose predatory approach to women seems like a disguise for a nice guy personality, while Kyle (Jake Busey) is a gonzo SoCal sex fiend who might just be ready to settle down by the second half of the century.
Egged on by a voluptuous temptress at a Vegas craps table, Michael loses way more than he has and is given one month by the casino to come up with the cash, or else. The only way he sees to collect so much money in so little time is to win the bet, an unlikely prospect given Kyle’s lifestyle, but he finds a hand to play when he meets Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), a statuesque cop who, Michael happens to know, is the one woman for whom Kyle ever felt anything.
It’s Michael’s good fortune that Natalie agrees to go along with the ploy (for half the proceeds) out of revenge, since she’s always wanted to get back at the cad who deflowered her on a one-night stand seven years earlier. Thereupon follows, however, a lame series of scenes in which Michael and Natalie spy upon Kyle in order to suss out his kinks and preferences, the better for Natalie to prey upon his weaknesses. And, whaddyaknow, Michael and Natalie start getting that warm and tingly feeling for one another along the way.
Scripter and first-time director Gregory Poirier must have found partway through the writing that this plotline doesn’t organically lend itself to many supremely outrageous and vulgar possibilities. Therefore, they’ve had to be dragged in from left field to fulfill expectations fostered by an opening wedding scene in which all the ushers, having ingested a pre-Viagara instant potency mix, sport prominent tent poles under their tuxedo pants.
But there’s an arbitrary, forced quality to the horseplay, and most of the mirth it inspires tends to expire before it can erupt in the form of actual laughs. A big, chaotic luncheon at which Michael freaks out at the kid-dominated lifestyle of his old friends gets some mileage out of its credible basis in reality. But the nadir is hit in a ho-hum “outrageous” scene in which Michael picks up a homely librarian (Heather Stephens), only to see her turn into a leather-clad dominatrix in the boudoir. An interlude in which Michael chases Kyle’s surgically removed overgrown testicle as it careens throughout a hospital isn’t exactly a ball either.
Leading perfs are genial enough, with “American Pie” discovery Elizabeth actually able to retain a measure of dignity against considerable odds. Although decidedly R-rated, pic stints on any nudity.