Saturday, July 01, 2006

National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze

(2003, 96 min.)

Starring Tatyana Ali, Boti Bliss, Gable Carr, Patrick Cavanaugh, James DeBello, Marieh Delfino, Tony Denman, Danielle Fishel, Courtney Gains, Gregory Hinton, Edwin Hodge, Paul H. Kim, Jennifer Lyons, Marie Noelle Marquis, Chris Owen, Patrick Renna, Cameron Richardson, Randy Spelling.

Written by Patrick Casey and Worm Miller.

Directed by David and Scott Hillenbrand.

During a visit inside the titular housing unit on one day during finals week before winter break at Billingsley University, we are introduced to the following characters and situations: Adrienne (Richardson) is avoiding the improbably-named Newmar (Denman) because, though she’s not interested in him, she made out with him the previous evening while drunk and despondent over her unrequited crush on the even more improbably-named Foosball (Spelling), who, unbeknownst to Adrienne, does not return her affections because he’s gay. Adrienne is also avoiding Claire (Ali) because she borrowed a handbag, which she has since misplaced. Marla (Fishel) and Lynne (Lyons), the two resident bubbleheads, have become convinced that Claire’s boyfriend, Tony (Hodge), is physically abusing her (he isn’t), while Claire starts to suspect that he’s cheating on her with Adrienne (he isn’t) after overhearing them doing a scene for drama class. Loud-mouthed jerk Styles (Renna) is determined that his brother Booker (Owen) is going to lose his virginity, and to that end has hired a hooker for him, even though Booker is pining away for Rachel (Carr), the girl down the hall. Wang (Kim) is awaiting the arrival of a French exchange student, but has to go to work, so he asks Foosball to wait for her instead. Pete (Cavanaugh) is visited by his delinquent friend, Cliff (DeBello), with whom he’s supposed to drive back home after exams. Cliff is depressed from having just lost a crapload of money in Vegas, so they decide to tell everyone that he only speaks French so no one will bother him while Pete is at his job. The foreign exchange student, Dominique (Marquis), who naturally speaks no English, shows up and is immediately mistaken for the hooker. Conversely, the hooker (Bliss), who’s also conveniently named Dominique, shows up with her protection, Ted (Hinton), and is immediately mistaken for the foreign exchange student. Meanwhile, Gerri (Delfino) has come across a mysterious bag full of money in a package mailed to her, which she could definitely use as her scholarship is about to be revoked. When the sender of that bag, Lorenzo the Black Hand (Gains), whatever that means, contacts her and they arrange to meet, it turns out he believes she is actually Britney, a famous criminal/master of disguise whom he wishes to hire for some big job.

As should be all too evident, this has got to be one of the most densely plotted dumb comedies in existence, and the above only represents the set-ups, all of which become variously intertwined as things proceed, with messages, phones and notes being inadvertently exchanged. Some of the plot devices are contrived as hell (no, I mean really contrived; it’s saying something when some of your more credible moments involve the old Three’s Company ‘misunderstand a conversation in the next room’ bit), but then this probably isn’t the right kind of movie from which to demand realism, and it actually works far better (and funnier) than ever could have been expected, despite bouncing back and forth between moments of godawfulness and touches of actual inspiration. The dialogue is howlingly bad in spots, but, again, not as much as you might think. The cast is game, and the whole thing has a generally genial nature, a certain level of anticipated crudity aside.

In truth, this is a far more successful modern update of the ‘80s teen T&A comedies than other such attempts as Kevin Smith’s Mallrats and National Lampoon’s own Senior Trip. Actually they all could have used more gratuitous nudity (I was really hoping to be able to put this in Tee-Hee, I’m Naked!), but then I say that about everything, including my own life. I live in hope and am prepared to die in despair that one of these revivals will truly catch the spirit of those bygone paeans to dumb horniness, but until the filmmakers learn to use bodily function humor far more sparingly and bare breasts far less so, I’ll have to settle for the classics and moderate rehashes such as this one.

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