Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sorority Boys


Last night was truly a night to remember. I just don't know where to begin. Half of Hollywood descended on Chateau Maine to partake in one of my famous parties and to witness Madame Arcati, the famous medium, hold her little séance that she promised would help me contain my darling Norman's rambunctious spirit; it has been causing some difficulties in the poltergeist department. I received my guests wearing an absolutely stunning Bustopher Jones gown from my GlamourPuss collection (haut couture based on the costumes from Cats). Norman, not to be outdone, floated around the ceiling of the foyer clad in my best Mister Mistoffeles (the cerise, not the periwinkle) howling insults at the guests and topping it off by executing a perfect jackknife into the powder room commode. Unfortunately, Lauren Bacall was enthroned at the time and there was a little bit of a mess. Fortunately, June Allyson had come prepared and was able to avert an absolute social disaster. 

After the entertainment, the wait staff doing the outer space ballet from Act II of my current project, Mother Teresa: The Musical, Madame Arcati began her incantations and mystical routines. Much to the surprise of the assembled guests, Norman's spirit was fetched back from the depths of the plumbing (my poor dress will have to be discarded), conveyed quietly through the throng and held suspended above Madame's crystal. Madame Arcati then asked me to procure an appropriate vessel to contain Norman's spirit, something functional, but attractive. I immediately thought of a charming little bronze vase that had been a piece of the decor on the set of my great film triumph, Brig o' Doom. I asked Tommy, my new Jungian therapist to fetch it and hold it while Madame Arcati finished the job. With a final flourish, she extended her arms, there was a flash of ectoplasm, and Norman's spirit spiraled up in the air and down into the pot between Tommy's arms. There was a great cheer from the crowd, I took the vase and put it under a large glass dome and looked forward to some more dancing and uninterrupted sleep. 

After the guests departed, I found myself too wound up for sleep so I crept into the home theater for a film. The sight of Norman floating around the ceiling in a dress had put me in the mood for a comedy involving transvestism so I was most pleased to run across the 2002 film, Sorority Boys running late night on Encore. I had seen the preview for this some years ago, but I somehow missed it at my local Cineplex and was finally going to be able to catch up with the new millennium's take on college comedy. 

Unfortunately, the new millennium's college comedy is exactly the same as the last millennium's college comedy. The film is a low budget teen entertainment, written and directed by people you've never heard of who seem to have decided that the sophomoric is the highest form of humor. The plot concerns a fraternity at a nameless college (although location shots are easily recognizable as UCLA) known as Kappa Omicron Kappa, or KOK. It's inhabited by a large number of drunken womanizing reprobates who find the height of fun is to eject girls who don't meet their standards of beauty from their parties yelling 'Dogcatcher'. Across the road is the sorority Delta Omega Gamma, or DOG. (You can see where this is going already, can't you?) Inhabited by young women regarded as less than comely for one reason or another. Three of the fraternity brothers, Barry Watson (Matt from TV's Seventh Heaven), Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor from TV's Smallville, and comic Harland Williams (from the Farrelly brothers films), are accused of stealing the money the fraternity was saving to mount its annual Koktail cruise, a floating party given by the actives for the alumni that seems to be a sort of entertainment of which Messalina would heartily approve. 

Our three heroes are tossed out of the frat house and decide to clear their names by finding a videotape of the real culprit in the act. In order to sneak back in, they disguise themselves as sorority girls. Needless to say, they don't make the most attractive of young ladies and soon, they find themselves living in the DOG house and learning what it's like to be on the receiving end of boorish behavior. There's a lot of hijinks of various types including a tackle powder puff football game that owes a lot to an infamous Illinois high school video, mistaken identities, make-up and hair tips, and a grand finale on the boat where everything comes out right. 

The film makers clearly have Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds in mind in constructing their movie and there are moments in it that strongly echo both of these earlier, and far superior films. They come undone with their need to bring almost every joke back to elemental sexual acts. There are other things in life that are just as funny. By the time we get to the third or fourth scene where the cast members are lobbing artificial penises of various sizes and colors back and forth at each other, the charm is gone. One nice touch is in the casting of the older alumni for the last boat sequence. The majority are played by actors who played the fraternity brothers in Animal House. 

It would be easy to completely despise the film and dismiss it as dreck, but it does have a couple of things going for it. First, the underlying messages about the need for decent behavior between the sexes are positive ones. Second, the cast is much, much better than the material. All three of the leads have great fun with their parts and have kind of a looseness, in both their male and female personas that makes the film flow and actually quite watchable. The supporting cast is filled with able actors and farceurs who make the most of their moments including Heather Mattarazzo as a co-ed with a hideous voice, Tony Denman (Scotty from Fargo) as a randy little frat brother, Brad Beyer as the frat president with an impossible pompadour and veterans Peter Scolari and Wendy Jo Sperber in small roles. 

While Sorority Boys isn't a good film, and is usually not terribly funny for a raucous comedy, it does showcase some acting talent and the site of Harland Williams in a dress and a Shirley Temple red wig will not soon be forgotten. 

Vibrator catapult. Sex videotaping. Gratuitous shower erection. Gratuitous European hair joke. Boys in high heels. Girls in football uniforms. Floating batch of princesses. Implied male homosexual encounter. Gratuitous unimplied female homosexual encounter. Color coordinated formal gowns. 

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