Jaws: The Revenge

Take a bite out of cinematic crime, and don't get Whipped

Amanda Peet has extraordinarily large teeth; you're surprised she can close her mouth. It may be in vogue for hot, young, would-be sex symbols to have a set of brightly polished choppers prominent in neighboring counties (cf. Neve Campbell, Casper Van Dien, or Denise Richards), but Amanda's impressive ivories belong on a piano, not in a head. In Whipped, they're not even whiter-than-white, and yet they remain in the memory long after most everything else about the film has swiftly vaporized. Does the fact that she plays the ultimate object of desire therefore strike a blow for the dentally enhanced? Or could the movie's poster, in which she's apparently pouting so as not to open her mouth too far, be considered deceptive? It's your call.

But don't let the R rating fool you into thinking any of her other body parts will be prominently on display. Most of first-time writer-director-producer Peter M. Cohen's film looks like something Kevin Smith made for ABC, until the network canceled it after two episodes: Guys sit around sharing raunchy sex talk (as Cohen undoubtedly hopes some of his sleazy metaphors will become popular catchphrases), occasionally pausing to compare themselves to movie characters.

There's Zeke (Zorie Barber), the vaguely geeky, mildly Jewish screenwriter who compares himself to Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks, when the nerdy guy on Sports Night would be more apt; Brad (Brian Van Holt), the boring suit who thinks he's Tom Cruise in Risky Business, though he's more reminiscent of the typical womanizing best friend seen on almost every contemporary sitcom; and Jonathan (Jonathan Abrahams), the goatee-wearing nice one of the bunch who is often mistaken for gay, and thus compares himself to Andrew McCarthy in St. Elmo's Fire (but you'll be thinking more along the lines of Ben Stiller in virtually every Ben Stiller movie).

Zorle Barber props up Amanda Peet, whose head is too heavy to support such large teeth.
Zorle Barber props up Amanda Peet, whose head is too heavy to support such large teeth.

All three meet repeatedly in a diner to discuss their fortunes with the ladies: Brad has a scam going in which he always pretends to be the brother of his target's friend "Jen," because every woman has a friend by that name. Zeke passively allows women to rob him of his TV sets in exchange for sex; Jonathan mostly stays home and masturbates, for which he naturally has a number of colorful euphemisms. And if your sides aren't splitting yet, there's a fourth guy--Eric (Judah Domke), the married friend--who would quite willingly detail the kinky acts he and his wife perform on each other, if anyone cared to listen.

It's a comfortable routine for everyone involved, until each of the three single men meets the woman of his dreams--and she turns out to be the same woman for all three (which was, oddly, the plot of a Drew Carey Show episode). This is Mia (Peet), and she further complicates matters by refusing to choose between them. Male egos being what they are, each man is still convinced he's the only one for this beauty, and so battle ensues. The players find themselves being played.

What do we learn from all this? Men are arrogant swine, and can be easily manipulated with the promise of sex. Nothing new there. However, we also learn that women are often simply manipulative sluts who are perfectly willing to "give it up" just to teach guys a lesson, and happy to watch them suffer for personal amusement, even to a degree above and beyond what they may deserve. Oh, and men love huge incisors.

Is this all really a step in the right direction? Or is it expecting too much from a light comedy to make any insightful points about relationships? There certainly are funny moments, notably a scene involving Jonathan, a vibrator, and the song "Karma Chameleon." But for every good background music choice (Boy George, seriously), there's a hackneyed use of Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love," exhausted around the time it showed up in the Afghan Whigs' hands in Beautiful Girls.

Whipped's biggest strength is that it accurately captures the way most dumb white heterosexual males casually talk about sex in crude, conquest-type lingo, like referring to a bachelor pad as a "stabbin' cabin." The question is whether one actually wants (or needs) to pay the price of a movie ticket for this kind of thing, and that's not a moral statement, but a practical one: Hang out at a frat house or sports bar, and you can hear this kind of talk for free.

 
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