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Wild Things

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Wild Things

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell
Director: John McNaughton
Rated: R
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: March 1998
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Noir, Suspense

*Also starring: Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, Theresa Russell, Bill Murray, Carrie Snodgress, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Robert Wagner, Jeff Perry

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
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Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Former teen heartthrob Matt Dillon, playing Sam Lombardo, WILD THINGS's poor persecuted hero, drives his beat-up jeep through an isolated and heavily wooded road. As JAWS-like music blasts through the theater speakers, we see a sinister, black Range Rover moving into attack position. After the black car pushes Sam's into the river, someone sends a mean-looking crocodile in after him to try to finish him off. The audience's reaction at my screening was to laugh at this hokey scene, one of many such ones in WILD THINGS.

First, the bad news. WILD THINGS, unlike STARSHIP TROOPERS and SCREAM, isn't smart enough to realize that its only hope is as a parody. One of the film's minor roles, a slimy but cheap lawyer named Ken Bowden, is acted for maximum comedic pleasure by Bill Murray. But only Murray gets it. The other actors have been hoodwinked by director John McNaughton into believing that they are in a serious thriller. (If you've seen the delightful movie LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND with its intentionally awful HOT PANTS COLLEGE II as a movie-with-the-movie spoof, you may begin to wonder if you just walked into HOT PANTS COLLEGE I.)

Now, the good news. The show does become laughably bad with its many highly predictable twists and turns. And if you like shows played for maximum titillation, you'll like the nudity and the hot sex - you even get a threesome. For those seeking an intelligent script, this one by Kem Nunn and Stephen Peters will undoubtedly leave you as frustrated as some of the oversexed teenagers in the movie.

In the beginning Kevin Bacon, as straight-arrow Detective Ray Duquette of the sex crimes unit, lectures a high school assembly in the wealthy little town of Blue Bay. "What is a sex crime?" he asks the students. "Not get'n any," one yells back. In this hamlet full of ranging hormones the kid was essentially enunciating one of the town's axioms.

When 18-year-old Kelly Van Ryan, one of the richest of Blue Bay's spoiled rich kids, sets her eyes on Sam, she determines to fall all over him to seduce him. When even a see-through wet shirt and shorts don't do the trick, she accuses him of rape. This encourages fellow student Suzie Toller to come through with her own false rape claim.

As Kelly, Denise Richards, who was so perfectly cast in STARSHIP TROOPERS, is wasted. She does little more than show off her body, which admittedly is worth displaying. Neve Campbell from SCREAM plays Suzie. Neve, who stays fully clothed, doesn't have much challenging work to do either.

Theresa Russell plays Kelly's oversexed mom, Sandra. Like Sam, she tries to bed most of the town's members of the opposite sex. A compassionate mother, she attends to Kelly's needs, if it's convenient. ("Can I get you anything? Do want a Valium?")

In a movie that telegraphs its every punch, Detective Ray Duquette lectures Suzie's ex-boyfriend as a way to talk to the audience. "People aren't always what they appear to be," he tells us in case we are in danger of not guessing the obvious. "Don't forget that," he throws in for good measure to make sure we are paying attention. Suitably admonished not to believe anyone, we don't, which gives the upcoming twists away for those few who haven't already guessed them by that point.

Could the movie have been better? Absolutely. Bill Murray understood the material even if no one else did. Imagine what this cast could have done with Murray in the director's chair. Then we would have had a wildly funny movie rather than this one of cheap thrills and a few laughs.

WILD THINGS runs 1:53. It is rated R for full-frontal nudity, sex, dope smoking, profanity, and some violence and would be fine for older teenagers.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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