Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Amateurs

The Amateurs (Michael Traeger, 2005) [3]
With a cast like this and an interesting premise (some local nobodys team together to make a porno film), it's not that big of a surprise that it came out not much better than a pile of garbage. Jeff Bridges plays Andy Sargentee, recently divorced and worried that he doesn't compare to his son's rich step dad, attempts to make a score for himself. What else but porn? He wrangles all the local losers and weirdos (played with varying degrees of passabililty by Joe Pantoliano, Ted Danson, and Tim Blake Nelson among others) to chip in and make a nice porno film in Butterface Fields. My number one gripe are the names in this thing. Does Traeger think naming a town Butterface Fields and a character Some Idiot are going to be funny? It begins to show the shallow depths of the humor in this film. Besides making the porno jokes (black guys are supposed to be well endowed, a girl works in a bed store so she must be into sex) and not actually having the balls to show any sex or nudity, there's not much that could make it worse. The film also crams out a stale "gay guy pretending not to be gay by acting overly macho" subplot and hampers Andy with a self-reflective narration, having to constantly make the audience aware that they're watching a film; I don't know where this comes from lately, but it's a stunt that always backfires. The only time Traeger is really on track with his humor is the bickering over the scripting and execution of the film, the only time that shows how actually clueless yet entertaining these guys can be. The rest of the film is just time to throw out lame jokes and have Andy wallow in self-pity. The film also has a mild ripple of chauvinism in it. It's not mean or that intentional, I think, but it is a bit alarming how Traeger spends a lot of time with male characters. The only time women appear they are more or less treated as objects. Not objects in the pornographic way but more there just to propel the story. Lauren Graham and Judy Greer are tremendously funny actresses but they rarely register in their screen time. The story is about men; I can understand that, but it certainly weakens what was already a fairly mediocre script. The real way this could have been better is if Traeger when all out and made this a raunchfest. It would have a lot more satirical bite than the toothless, throwaway nature of this film.

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