Category Archives: TV and Film

National Lampoon Presents: Dorm Daze

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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The National Lampoon films are usually defined by a certain style of comedy. Since Animal House kicked things off in 1978 the films have generally had pretty simplistic plots peppered with what many would consider crude and juvenile humor. The last thing I’d expect out of the Lampoon is a complicated, door-slamming farce…but that’s what we got in the 2003 effort, National Lampoon Presents: Dorm Daze.

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The story is very complicated and has a lot of twists and turns, so to try and give a blow by blow summary would be head spinning. We’ll just keep it all very basic. The madness takes place in a co-ed dorm where annoying horndog Styles McFee (Patrick Renna) has decided help his younger brother/roommate Booker (Chris Owen) conquer his virginity problem by hiring a hooker named Dominique (Boti Bliss). At the same time, a French foreign exchange student, also named Dominique (Marie-Noelle Marquis) is also due to arrive. As you may have figured, a massive case of mistaken identity is on the horizon.

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This isn’t all that conspires to cause problems, though. There are also various love notes being passed around and ending up in the hands of the wrong people. Meanwhile, another student, Tony (Edwin Hodge), has been practicing a script for his drama class with another dorm resident named Adrienne (Cameron Richardson). The scene, which deals with a pregnant girlfriend and a breakup, is overheard by the dorm’s two resident busy bodies, Marla (Danielle Fishel) and Lynne (Jennifer Lyons), which leads them to blab to Tony’s girlfriend Claire (Tatyana Ali). As if all that wasn’t enough, there is also a student named Geri (Marieh Delfino), who accidentally receives a bag full of money from a shifty guy named Lorenzo (Courtney Gains). The bag just so happens to be an exact duplicate of one belonging to Claire, and borrowed without permission by Adrienne. To make an already long story short, hijinks ensue.

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I confess to having a bit of a soft spot for wacky screwball farces. Though I wouldn’t dare put Dorm Daze in the same category as some of the greats, I gotta admit I found this film to be silly fun. That the film ultimately works is no small feat. The intersecting storylines get quite complex and there are definitely more characters than would’ve been considered safe. Yet, the situations play out in satisfying, and at times surprising ways. Plus, the wide selection of characters are all distinctive and never seem to get in the way of each other. Sure, the film is nowhere close to being a noteworthy cinematic achievement, but director’s David and Scott Hillenbrand pull of a juggling act that is quite impressive.

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The cast is actually quite appealing; filled with a number of people that make you go “hey isn’t that what’s-their-face?” Among those you may recognize are Tony Denman, who was once little Scotty Lundegard in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo. Here he plays the charmingly awkward Newmar, who is desperate to confess his true feelings for Cameron Richardson’s Adrienne. She also steals several scenes as the obligatory geeky cute girl. Some of the funnier moments come courtesy Jennifer Lyons and Danielle Fishel (yes, Topanga herself) as the two dorm residents who always seem to have their noses in everyone else’s business. One of the most recognizable faces is Patrick Renna, aka Ham of The Sandlot fame. He plays the film’s most unlikable character, but at least he gets what’s coming to him, so to speak. It was also kind of fun seeing Children of the Corn’s creepy red-head Courtney Gains as a nasty gangster type with a strange birthmark that covers almost all of his right hand. All in all, the cast manages to do a skillful job with the material, and may actually elevate the quality of the script itself.

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Most of the film takes place inside the dorm building, which by the way, is the fanciest dormitory I’ve ever seen. The filmmakers do a solid job of giving the audience a good understanding of the layout of the building as we quickly jump from room to room. I really enjoyed the few outdoor scenes of the film, though, which cast San Diego’s Balboa Park as the unnamed fictional college. Having just visited this location myself about a year and half ago, I can tell you it’s a beautiful spot and the Spanish Colonial style buildings that fill the park make for a picturesque college campus in this film.

Dorm Daze was not at all what I expected it to be. Heck, the DVD cover features an image of one of the male cast members peering at us from between a girls’ legs. I suppose they wanted potential viewers to think this was another National Lampoon sex romp. It actually ended up being a fun little screwball farce which, so help me, had me more than a bit delighted.

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National Lampoon’s Cattle Call

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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In this time of #MeToo and revelations involving producers like Harvey Weinstein allegedly trading roles for sex, we come to a film that is not going to have aged well for many. It’s one thing, though, when it’s a creepy overweight dude like Weinstein, and a whole other story when it’s a bunch of young lovable doofuses just trying to make a love connection…right? Surely the folks at National Lampoon can show us the funny side of the casting couch. Don’t get your hopes up as we head back to 2006 for National Lampoon’s Cattle Call.

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The film follows two buddies, Ritchie (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Sherman (Andrew Katos)), who are desperate to find true love in LA. Having achieved no success on dating websites, they hit upon the idea to hold a casting call for actresses to appear in a music video…that they have no intention of actually making. With the help of their weirdo friend Glenn (Diedrich Bader), they set up shop in an office and start holding auditions for what soon becomes an “independent film.”

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The trio sees many lovely, and slightly bizarre, actresses, and each soon sets their sights on a particular young lady as a romantic conquest. Sherman ends up bedding down with a girl named Reseda (Lisa Arturo), but eventually dumps her for another, Nikita (Chelsea Handler). Meanwhile, Glenn becomes obsessed with an actress named Laurel Canyon (Nicole Eggert)…which I’m thinking is probably a name used at some point by an actual porn actress (update: IMDB confirms). Meanwhile, Ritchie becomes enamored with the most normal and adorable of all the girls, Marina (Jenny Mollen), who has recently arrived in LA and currently lives in her car. Of course, as the relationships get more serious, especially between Ritchie and Marina, the lie gets bigger and bigger. It becomes a challenge for the three pals to keep up appearances that they are actually making a movie. Trouble also comes in the form of an undercover cop trying to get to the bottom of their scam.

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Here’s a film that certainly has an uphill battle. After all, it gives us three lead characters who the filmmakers hope we’ll be charmed by, despite the fact that they are engaging in some pretty reprehensible behavior. Though I will give some credit to Thomas Ian Nichols and Jenny Mollen for injecting a smidge of sweetness into the love story between their characters, this film is ultimately a very ugly attempt at mining a few laughs from something that is inherently unfunny. The audition sequences, which take up way too much screen time, are downright uncomfortable to watch as we see a parade of women all too willing to do whatever it takes to get a part in the imaginary film. These scenes are even shot on video, which just makes the casting process seem a lot seedier…which is not a good thing. The ugliness doesn’t stop with the three fake movie makers, though. The character who is revealed to be an undercover cop late in the film engages in some activities with these morons that would pretty much negate any case she might be trying to build against them. For the most part, you can’t really get behind the actions of anybody in this film.

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The one small bright spot is the aforementioned relationship between Thomas Ian Nichols and Jenny Mollen. As bad some of these National Lampoon films get, they do often do well in casting sexy but sweet leading ladies who manage to be rather appealing on screen. Jenny Mollen definitely fits that bill. Her character has a lovable spunk that is hard to resist. As for Nichols, he has always been a pretty likable screen presence. He was the kid in Rookie of the Year, after all! There is definitely some chemistry between these two and there is something slightly genuine about the scenes in which we see their relationship start to blossom. This aspect of the film, though, is very much shrouded over by the unseemly nature of the rest of the movie.

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All in all the laughs are few and far between.  There are a few sequences where some of the actors were clearly allowed to improvise. Some of them produce a few chuckles and some of them have the comedic prowess of your average ingrown toenail. Probably the best of these scenes depicts an awkward date between Diedrich Bader and Nicole Eggert. Bader’s revelation of having had a dream where Don Knotts was trying to kill him was the one audible laugh that the film got out of me. Film director Paul Mazursky appears as a judge towards the end of the film and is obviously making some of his lines up on the fly with modest results. Dismal, though, is the improvised performance of Jonathan Winters as a movie studio tour guide. To say he’s trying too hard would be an understatement.

When you boil it all down, Cattle Call is a movie about ugly people doing ugly things. That’s something that can work in comedy, but it takes a an approach that this film is just not capable of. A few likable cast members keep this from reaching the bottom of the National Lampoon cinematic barrel, but it’s not too far away from reaching that depth.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



National Lampoon’s Last Resort

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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It is time for us to return to the valley of the Coreys. That’s right, smack in the middle of the eight or so films that Corey Feldman and Corey Haim made together, there was one that bore the name National Lampoon. My guess is the pair saw that this particular vehicle took place at a tropical beach resort and figured it was a nice way to get a paid vacation. Be sure to pack your sunscreen and flip flops for 1993’s National Lampoon’s Last Resort.

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The film centers on two losers named Sam (Feldman) and Dave (Haim). Really!? Sam and Dave? Anyhow, these guys are barely holding down jobs in a Detroit fast food joint, that is until they accidentally blow the place up. Luckily, at that moment they get word from Sam’s uncle Rex (Geoffrey Lewis) who runs a fledgling beach resort in the Caribbean. Rex is a former star of swashbuckling films who is still hassled by his former onscreen nemesis, Hemlock (Robert Mandan). Hemlock is anxious to swipe the resort out from under Rex, who can barely pay his bills. So the boys sign on as scuba instructors to help out. Somehow they also have the rest of the staff believing that they are connected with the CIA.

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Thinking that top government agents have been brought in to help Rex, Hemlock sends out his own goons to start sabotaging the resort. He also dispatches the lovely Alex (Demetra Hampton) to seduce Sam and get him to convince Rex to sign over the deed to the resort to Hemlock. As for Dave, he’s too busy trying to romance Sonja (Maureen Flannigan), the resort’s resident geeky cute girl. Eventually, our gang of doofuses figure out that the only way to save the resort is to locate the buried treasure that legend has it is hidden on the island.

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National Lampoon’s Last Resort is a half-hearted attempt at the slobs vs snobs comedy formula. One of the key elements of that style is a fun rag-tag group of “heroes” to root for. I don’t know if I could root for this cast of characters if they were trying to swim for shore through shark infested waters. The one somewhat fun character is Sonja, who is obsessed with worshiping some kind of island god named Ya-Ya. Maureen Flannigan actually has a certain spark that makes her one of the few bright spots in this cast. The rest of the gang is just a resort employee dubbed Flash (named such for his proclivity for exposing himself), a few weirdo tourists, and the thoroughly unfunny and downright annoying leads. The Coreys literally stumble their way through this film. It’s clear in several sequences that they are coming up with their dialogue on the spot, ability to actually improvise be damned.

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Story wise, the film is a mess of brain farts that someone probably scribbled on gum wrappers and then assembled into a script. Most of it doesn’t make a lick of sense. I mean, somehow Rex gets it in his mind that his nephew Sam (who he’s never met) is a scuba diving expert…who lives in Detroit?! Later, Hemlock gets all out-of-sorts because he thinks the boys are CIA agents there to help Rex save his hotel…because the CIA is totally in the business of helping brokedown beach resorts avoid bankruptcy!?! Now, I know you’re not supposed to take everything so seriously when it comes to comedies, but come on, you’ve got to at least have one toe dipped in the kiddie pool of reality.

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Then again, this film is not really all that concerned with reality. It does seem to be attempting a bit of an absurdist approach to the humor, but even that ends up falling face first into the sand. We get a brief subplot where Corey Feldman starts to fall for a mermaid. Okay, whatever, I can go with you on this one, I guess. Then Feldman ruins it when explaining his obsession with the mermaid to Haim by uttering the line, “I always wondered where you put it.” I don’t think there’s been a worse movie quote in the 25 years that have passed since this film was first released. Another awful sequence tries for the absurdist humor and fails with a game show to determine who gets the treasure. The old hermit that runs the game show is played by Poltergeist’s Zelda Rubinstein. It all starts innocently enough, but before long we’re watching a contest where the winner is determined by who has the longest dong. This film has to have been written by a twelve-year-old.

Now, this film does have a bit of controversy surrounding it today. It seems that one of the other cast members’ names has come up as being involved in the alleged molestation of Corey Haim throughout his teenage years. I’ll say nothing more than that, except that it’s not Roger Clinton, brother of the former President who plays a mob goon in one scene. But no matter how you slice it, this is a messed up movie. It’s unfunny and amateurishly made, but at least it’s title accurately describes the place it should take when determining what to watch…it’s a “last resort.”

 

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



National Lampoon Presents: Repli-Kate

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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I’ve always been slightly fascinated with the unusual paths to movie stardom that some people have had. I think about people like Audie Murphy, he was one of the most decorated combat vets of World War II and someone at a movie studio thought that making him a movie star was the next logical step. How ‘bout Esther Williams, a competitive swimmer turned leading lady. Then we have the star of our film today, Ali Landry. To many in the late 90’s she was “that hot girl from the Doritos Super Bowl commercial.” Of course, once you’ve shared the screen with nacho cheese flavored chips, movie stardom is what comes next. Well, maybe the direct-to-video sort of stardom when you headline films like this 2002 offering, National Lampoon presents: Repli-Kate.

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The plot centers on a young scientist named Max Fleming (Psych’s James Roday) who is working with the stuffy Dr. Jonas (Eugene Levy) on some cloning technology. Max is actually the brains of the operation, though, and has had some success with cloning a mouse. Of course, Jonas is anxious to present these findings to the world and to receive all the attention that comes with it. This includes a story being written by a gorgeous young magazine reporter, Kate Carson (Landry). One day, while she is interviewing Max in the lab, she accidentally cuts herself. Some of her blood ends up on a slide and, well you can do the math. Later when Max tries to create another clone with what he thinks is mouse blood, he ends up with a clone of Kate…full-grown and as sexy as the original.

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Now, Max and his friend Henry (Desmond Askew) have to keep “Repli-Kate” away from the original, and teach her to function in the real world. However, they decide to mold her in their image. Basically, they teach her to see the world the way a dude would…love sports, drink lots of beer, be sexually dominant, that sort of stuff. They soon learn having a gorgeous woman around who acts like a frat boy is actually no fun at all. Things are complicated further when Max and the real Kate start to fall in love.

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I’ve watched enough of these National Lampoon films to not go in expecting a whole lot. While it does stumble into the realm of moronic humor at times, I was really surprised at how charming Repli-Kate manages to be at times. I think it’s fair to say that the material is elevated immensely by the film’s two very engaging leads. My family are huge fans of the show Psych, so when I saw James Roday show up on screen I thought this could be interesting. He really sells it as a guy who is brilliant, but a bit of a goofball…not to mention a total wash-out when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex. I can’t fault him for fumbling a bit, though, when his conquest is as gorgeous as Ali Landry is. She’s more than just a pretty face in this film, though. She proves to be quite a skilled comedic performer both as the very sweet and crushable Kate and the offputting Repli-Kate. Her professors at the Frito Lay School of Acting should be proud.

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Though the film is very sweet at times, this is still a National Lampoon film, and we’re many years removed from the likes of Animal House and Vacation. The film slips into some painfully sophomoric moments of attempted humor that do threaten to sink this film. The climax of the film is especially egregious, where a (spoiler alert) cloned version of Eugene Levy’s character stands in front of an auditorium full of scientists and delivers a speech which consists of saying the word “penis” over and over and over again. Did the filmmakers not realize that they had Eugene Levy there? He’s only one of the funniest comedic performers to come out of the Second City. You could’ve told the man to improvise for three minutes and you’d have had enough comedic gold to make a leprechaun jealous. The sequence is made even more painful given the fact that the film actually has a fair share of solidly funny moments. Ali Larter has a really fun scene where the two versions of herself keep almost running into each other in a department store changing room. She even gets to do a short take on the Marx Brothers famous Duck Soup mirror sequence. The film has some moments of good comedy, but when it falls it falls hard.

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Despite those painful moments, I think the film ultimately charmed me more than it frustrated me. The love story that claws its way through the more juvenile moments is pretty darn sweet. Roday and Landry make a great couple. There’s great chemistry between them and it’s a nice touch that, as gorgeous as she is, she fumbles with trying to move their relationship forward just about as much as he does. Even though this all takes place in the context of an outlandish story, there is something genuine about the evolution of their relationship and you can’t help but root for them as a couple.

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Repli-Kate certainly falls victim to some of the trappings that come with slapping the name National Lampoon on a film, but it does manage to rise above the frat boy humor at times. It is by no stretch of the imagination an expertly handled comedy, but the two leads do give the film a sweetness that is hard to resist. It’s not a great film, but was a pleasant enough surprise.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



National Lampoon’s Pledge This!

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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There was a time when National Lampoon films were making movie stars out of performers like John Belushi or Chevy Chase. That was the distant past, though, by the time we reached the year 2006. It was a dark time, for rather than centering their films on exceptional comedic performers, they were putting the name Paris Hilton above the title. Like I said, dark times. Brace for impact as we look at National Lampoon’s Pledge This!

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Our story begins as school is starting at South Beach University. A mishap involving an explosive toilet has forced a dorm to be closed down, resulting in a rag-tag group of female freshman having no place to live. The group includes minorities, a lesbian, a chubby chick, a housewife who has gone back to school, and a foreign exchange student from India who goes by the name “Poo Poo.” With no place to live, these girls determine to pledge a sorority. They end up at Gamma Gamma, which is led by the pampered Victoria English (Paris Hilton). Now, normally Gamma Gamma wouldn’t have anything to do with these girls, but they are needing to become more “diverse” in order to win the honor of being FHM magazine’s hottest sorority and ending up on the cover of an issue. Once they have secured that honor they will, of course, discard the newbies before the photo shoot.

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A variety of initiation rituals follow, including making the girls go out to collect hundreds of used condoms. Eventually, one of the girls, Gloria (Paula Garcés) gets fed up and leads an exodus from Gamma Gamma. At the same time, she becomes romantic with Victoria’s go-to guy, Derek (Simon Rex). Victoria still needs these girls to win the FHM prize, though. They end up coming back, but after they are humiliated by Victoria, they launch a plot to get revenge.

At its heart, this film is actually a blatant rip off a film that probably owes its existence to Animal House. Pledge This essentially steals the plot of Revenge of the Nerds. We’ve got a group of outcasts, they are kicked out of their dorm and have to find housing, they suffer the hazing of an evil sorority, and the outcasts get revenge. We even have one of the girls stealing Paris Hilton’s boyfriend just like how Louis steals the head cheerleader from Ted McGinley in Nerds. It’s nearly beat for beat.

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If you recall, the first film to bear the National Lampoon name was also about the college greek system. It was a little flick called Animal House. Who would’ve thought that things would sink to this level. Animal House pretty much pioneered the whole slobs vs. snobs formula that worked so well in tons of 80’s comedies. With this film it’s still slobs vs. snobs, but the chief snob is the central character of the film! Paris Hilton’s character even serves as narrator! You don’t make the character you’re supposed to root against the narrator!?! By focusing this story on Hilton’s character, this film pretty much goes against everything that the name National Lampoon once stood for.

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Putting so much focus on Hilton is a fatal mistake, not just because she is a terrible actress, but also because some of the heroes of the story are actually somewhat appealing characters. I rather liked Paula Garcés as the defacto leader of our central group of sorority rejects. It’s one of those cases where you really feel like this actress deserves way better than the material she’s having to deal with here. A few of the others have some fun moments, too. There’s a weird sweetness to the foreign exchange student with the unfortunate name of Poo Poo, played by Noureen DeWulf. Kerry Kenney also has some funny moments as Kathy, the middle-aged mom who is going back to college to make it with young guys; a revenge plot against her cheating husband. Though, she’s also the character that goes the furthest over-the-top when it comes to the film’s gross-out moments.

Speaking of gross-out moments, they are plentiful and, for the most part, unfunny. We have jokes that involve exploding toilets, a ball of used condoms, vomiting, and being sexually assaulted by Paris Hilton’s dog. It’s not exactly high-concept. It’s also nowhere near the sort of jokes we were treated to in such National Lampoon classics as Animal House or Vacation. Those movies certainly had gross-out moments, but there was a certain nuance to them that made them work. Blowing my nose into a tissue and spooling it through a movie projector would result in more nuanced humor than what this film offers.

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The film does offer a strange selection of familiar faces who pop up in cameos. You can spot comedic actors like Rick Overton as the janitor who must deal with the bathroom mishap and Taylor Negron as a professor teaching about the Kama Sutra. Carmen Electra appears as herself at the FHM party, as does Sophia Vergara. Those with keen eyes may recognize Jennifer Cox, who is best known for playing Jan in The Brady Bunch Movie, as a TV host at the FHM party. If you remember the reality show spoof The Jo Schmo Show, you may also spot one of that program’s cast members, Angela Dodson, in several scenes.

Pledge This may represent the National Lampoon’s fall from grace better than many of their other films. It’s basically the sort of story they would’ve excelled at in the 70’s or 80’s, but this is so misguided.  The type of celebrity personalities who were once the butt of the joke for the Lampoon are now made the lead characters in their movies. How the mighty have fallen.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers

This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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In the 1920’s and 30’s there was a very popular series of musical films known as the Gold Diggers series. The original 1923 film, simply called Gold Diggers, is actually a lost film. Five more Gold Diggers films would follow, thankfully all of these still exist. None of those films, though, have anything whatsoever to do with the film we’re looking at today. Sorry, there’s no singing and dancing involved when it comes to the 2003 film, National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers.

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The film centers on two down-on-their-luck pals, Calvin (Will Friedle) and Leonard (American Pie’s Chris Owen). After a number of crappy jobs, they have turned to crime. One day, they attempt to mug two elderly women…who take them down with some pepper spray and a taser. Now, the two ladies are sisters Betty (Renee Taylor) and Doris Mundt (Louise Lasser), heir’s to a condom company fortune. Sadly, their nasty Uncle Walt has stolen their trust fund and they are broke. So, they decide to not press charges against the boys so they can marry them, buy an insurance policy, and then murder them later to collect on cash. At the same time, they guys figure the women won’t live long, so they will marry them and inherit the fortune (which they don’t realize the women don’t really have) and live the high-life after their deaths.

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So now, after some truly bizarre sex scenes between these two young guys and these sex-starved older women, the film follows both teams as they try to off each other. Each attempt ends up resulting in the death of some innocent bystander. Eventually, something strange starts to happen…Lenny and Doris actually start to fall in love for real. Soon, the two sides start to work together to bust in to Uncle Walt’s place and grab the dough.

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National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers I think wins the prize for most misleading DVD box art ever. The cover features the two young male leads flanking bikini-clad model Nikki Ziering…also known as “that Playboy chick who married and divorced that 90210 guy.” There’s an even bigger picture of her on the back cover! So what does she have to do with this film? Well, she appears in a few scenes as the girl of Calvin’s dreams. She has absolutely no bearing on the actual plot of the film. She shows up for a few seconds to look good in a bikini and then disappears. I actually went back and timed how much screen time she gets. It clocked in at a little more than two and a half minutes. That gets you the place of prominence on the DVD cover IF you look good in a bikini…which she does.

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The biggest problem with this film is that it is way too mean spirited to be funny. Our four main characters cause the poisoning death of the Japanese gardener, cause the plumber to slip in the shower and break his neck, and kill a next door neighbor by way of a rattlesnake bite to the nuts. Comedy gold there folks!?! When they aren’t trying to off somebody, the major focus of the film is the attempts of these two elderly women to make the two guys join the #MeToo movement. One particularly icky scene pretty much ruined the bubblegum classic “My Boy Lollipop” for me. None of these attempts at raunchy comedy are even remotely funny. Only the wedding scene managed a few legitimate laughs, courtesy of the preacher played by JJ Cole.

The one other slightly enjoyable aspect of the film is Louise Lasser. She’s a skilled comedic actress, but how on earth did she end up in a film like this? After all, in the world of Woody Allen films she was Diane Keaton before she was Mia Farrow. Lasser actually succeeds in bringing a bit a sweetness to the love story between her and Chris Owen’s character, but she can’t salvage the rest of this film. Her on-screen sister, Renee Taylor, puts in a shrill, ear-splitting performance that will make you want to scrape your armpits with a cheese grater. Meanwhile, the two male leads display all the charisma of your average kumquat.

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I knew going in that this series on forgotten National Lampoon films was going to be no easy task, but I think I may have underestimated how bad these films could get. With the exception of a few fleeting moments from Louise Lasser, Gold Diggers is a joyless film. An ugly and mean movie with two and half minutes of bikini footage sprinkled here and there.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films



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