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Roger Dodger

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Roger Dodger

Starring: Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg
Director: Dylan Kidd
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Elizabeth Berkley, Jennifer Beals, Isabella Rossellini, Mina Badie

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Dylan Kidd's ROGER DODGER is a deliciously caustic blend of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, IN THE COMPANY OF MEN and TADPOLE. The script, delivered with machine gun cadence, is so sharp that it's a lethal weapon. Think of ROGER DODGER as the date movie that Franz Kafka would have made.

The mesmerizing story concerns a misogynistic extrovert named Roger (Campbell Scott) who thinks that he is God's gift to women. Believing himself to be a great intellect, he loves to spout cheap analysis of the world's problems. In the opening, after a lengthy diatribe on the sorry state of men and women today, he concludes, "Ten or fifteen generations from now, men will be reduced to servitude." His pickup lines for women at bars are so sarcastic and humiliating that they frequently get him thrown out into the street. Like Aaron Eckhart's frightening performance in Neil LeBute's IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, Scott turns in such a masterful piece of acting as a slime ball that you wish he'd give up his career as a good guy and turn totally to the dark side.

The story, which happens mainly over one night, concerns Roger's teaching his 16-year-old nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), how to score. A virgin, Nick is an eager but unsure pupil. (His introduction to the world of sex is handled tastefully with almost nothing shown, which is easy since the focus is completely on the dialog and not the miniscule action.) The back story about Roger's childhood sounds like it might make a great prequel.

Like a CIA operative teaching a young recruit, Roger demonstrates to Nick how to surreptitiously peer down women's blouses and up their skirts. The real battleground in Roger's war of the sexes occurs in darkly lit bars, where single women roam. The first two women that these bachelors on the town try to pick up are Andrea (Elizabeth Berkley, SHOWGIRLS) and Sophie (Jennifer Beals, FLASHDANCE). The sweetest part of the film occurs when Nick asks them about their "first time." In the show's tenderest moment, Sophie gives Roger his first time, his first time with a real kiss -- his playing of Post Office when younger is officially declared invalid.

Spending his life writing copy for commercials, Roger takes a dim view of his job. "As we speak, consumers everywhere need reminders of how fat and unattractive they are," he says in one of his parting lines. The movie, which has two more good acts after the one with Berkley and Beals, knows how to part well. Just when you think that Roger is on the ropes, he bounces back to give his all to the minor leagues to which he finds himself relegated. One can easily imagine an octogenarian Roger in a nursing home harassing everyone with a skirt.

ROGER DODGER runs 1:44. It is rated R for "sexual content and language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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