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
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
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
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
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes