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Soft Toilet Seats

Some titles say it all, and "Soft Toilet Seats" says more than enough. As pathetic an excuse for a feature as has appeared in release in some time, this ersatz comedy-mystery is not stuffed with bathroom humor as title suggests, but it is undeniably soft and leaves a foul order of careless, cheapo filmmaking.

With:
Arne Steinberg - David Alex Rosen Tilly Rensley - Alexa Jago Annie Ashland - Sammi Davis Joey Carpini - Jonathan Aube Det. Colson - Michael Greene

Some titles say it all, and “Soft Toilet Seats” says more than enough. As pathetic an excuse for a feature as has appeared in release in some time, this ersatz comedy-mystery is not stuffed with bathroom humor as title suggests, but it is undeniably soft and leaves a foul order of careless, cheapo filmmaking. Definitive proof that any pic can get a distrib, project is being four-walled by Phaedra, but those walls will be tumbling quickly, with a respectable ancillary future highly doubtful for this utterly misguided venture.

Amid a needless barrage of voice-over narration by hapless hero Arne (David Alex Rosen), he hints that a Los Angeles Police Department assault on his San Fernando Valley home would have never happened had he not bought the place from broker-pal Joey Carpini (Jonathan Aube), whose sleaziness is apparently obvious to all but gullible Arne.

Inexplicably trading in cool Venice digs for suburban tract boredom, Arne finds he has also bought an abode marked by apparent suicide of former owner Annie Ashland (Sammi Davis). When Annie’s vagabonding friend Tilly (Alexa Jago) barges in on Arne expecting to see her comrade after a long absence, trouble is clearly on the horizon.

Dreadful staging and pacing by scribe-helmer Tina Valinsky make it impossible to warm up to characters who lack any inner core, and thesps appear from the start to be up a creek without a paddle. Feeble whodunit plot is driven by Tilly, who’s positive that Annie — despite signs of depression as seen in innumerable flashbacks — didn’t off herself and is as sure as O.J. that the killer is out there. As barely credible romance warms up between Arne and Tilly, she gets him sexually fired up by revealing her love fling with Annie, and more awkward revelations follow with long-absent Joey, who holds the key to Annie’s tragic demise.

Pic’s comic impulse is amateurish to begin with, but third act focus on Annie’s death yanks down a morosely black weight that crushes any remaining laughs. Even a thesp with solid creds like Davis brings not one special moment to threadbare project, and Rosen is the acting equivalent of a zygote.

Jago puts across some of Alexa’s wild nature, but it’s hardly enough to add flesh to a character that is nothing more than a narrative device. Score by Louis Durra and Jeffrey R. Gund is a model of how not to write music for comedy, and presence of four credited editors indicates a production in deep disarray.

Soft Toilet Seats

Production: A Phaedra Cinema release of a Shirley Craig production. Produced by Shirley Craig. Executive producer, Dave Stauffacher. Directed, written by Tina Valinsky.

Crew: Camera (FotoKem color), Stephen Timberlake; editors, Lynel Moore Cioffi, Nancy Rosenblum, John Refoua, Robbie Adler; music, Louis Durra, Jeffrey R. Gund; production designer, Gabriella A. Goor; costume designer, Maral Kalinian; sound (Dolby), Pat Toma; supervising sound editor, Jossi Tegelman; assistant director, Michael Holm; casting, Aaron Griffith. Reviewed at Raleigh Studios, L.A., March 1, 2000. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 112 MIN.

With: Arne Steinberg - David Alex Rosen Tilly Rensley - Alexa Jago Annie Ashland - Sammi Davis Joey Carpini - Jonathan Aube Det. Colson - Michael Greene

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