Kevin O’Reilly has reviewed the theatrical release of A Guy Thing, a comedy starring Jason Lee as man about to be married to the girl of his dreams (Selma Blair), who wakes up the morning after his stag night to find Julia Stiles lying beside him.
Read an alternative review by Anthony Nield (Region 2 DVD)
Jason Lee is a unique comic talent who can be hilarious in the right part or look as awkward as he does in A Guy Thing, where he plays the kind of role that has Freddie Prinze Jr written all over it. Kevin Smith, who made him a star in Mallrats and Chasing Amy, knows exactly how to cast him but more often than not he’s been wasted, whether as Jennifer Love Hewitt’s romantic interest in Heartbreakers or as Tom Green’s straight man in Stealing Harvard. Lee’s at his best playing rogues and jerks and in this strained farce about a groom-to-be’s drunken one night stand, he’s not very convincing playing a mild-mannered square who is appalled to find Julia Stiles naked in his bed the morning after his bachelor party. He looks more like a man who’d whisper, “Thank you Jesus!” and wake her up for an encore.
His character Paul however is a nerd who’s about to marry Karen (Selma Blair), his boss’s daughter and a nice rich girl who’s a safe ticket to an uneventful life in suburbia. Becky (Julia Stiles) on the other hand is a free-spirit who part-times as a hula girl, bartender, record store clerk and toll booth attendant. It’s in her hula girl capacity that Paul meets her on his stag night, they share a few drinks and the next morning there’s a naked girl asleep beside him and his fiancée is on her way over. He gets himself out of that situation easily enough but that still leaves her missing underpants, the painful itching in his genital region, the girl’s obsessive and vengeful ex-boyfriend who happens to be a cop …oh, and the small matter of Becky being Karen’s cousin.
A Guy Thing isn’t entirely without chuckles. James Brolin is good value as Karen’s father, a macho boardroom bully, and there’s a nice running gag based on the idea that men always cover for each other. Unfortunately, the good jokes are in the minority. Film-makers too often forget that even dumb humour needs some sort of wit or observation – if you can’t understand or empathise, you can’t laugh. There’s a lengthy scene early on in which Paul goes to a drugstore, suffering from a venereal disease and the clerks yell, “Do we have crab medicine?” at each other across the packed shop. Leaving aside what an ancient, worn-out gag this is, the joke depends on the premise that a drugstore’s staff would be made up entirely of insensitive idiots, which is neither likely nor funny. There’s another running joke about an elderly Irish relative who’s banned from drinking but keeps trying to have her glass filled with booze. Eventually she gets her drink but there’s no comic pay-off whatsoever.
While most of the jokes fizzle, the story lets us guess where it’s headed much too early and so any involvement with the characters turns into a patient wait for the inevitable. The direction is equally uninspired. One sure sign that a film-maker lacks confidence in his material is an excess of music on the soundtrack and sure enough Chris Koch, whose only previous film was the kiddie flick Snow Day, ladels the most obvious score imaginable over every scene. Then there’s the lack of chemistry between the leads, a fatal blow to any romantic comedy. Jason Lee never overcomes his miscasting and Selma Blair is stuck with a poorly-written character whose feelings for her fiancé can apparently be switched on and off at will. Julia Stiles comes off best. Another talent who rarely gets roles worthy of her, she perks the film up with her beauty and star presence but she’s too bright to play Becky, a free-spirited bohemian who, for reasons best known to the screenwriters, is attracted to steroid-crazed bullies and conservative wimps. A Guy Thing lets down its cast and its audience.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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