Friday, October 22, 1999

Tabloid drama teaches the simple liaisons

Movie: Body Shots

Posted on Fri, Oct 22, 1999 at 4:00 AM

**
Our Rating: 2.00

If the plot of "Body Shots" came to life as a New York Post headline, it might read something like this: "Piggish Handsome Brute Collides With Dysfunctional Sexy Bimbo!" And the likely lead? "An arrogant football player and a starry-eyed female friend got together for an intimate rendezvous last night, and the results were more traumatic than romantic. Accusations of wrongdoing are flying, and friendships are shattering. Who did what to whom, and why?"

The feature-film directorial debut of acclaimed playwright Michael Cristofer (who helmed HBO's "Gia" last year) of course wants to be far more than a sexy-if-suspenseless soap opera about a bunch of nightclubbing twentysomethings. The movie, written by American History X screenwriter David McKenna, has pretensions of being a Rashomon for the young and the loveless of the late '90s. It's a stretch.

Michael (Jerry O'Connell of "Jerry Maguire") and Sara (Tara Reid of American Pie) leave a noisy dance club together, then head to her home for a talk and a walk on the beach. After a sudden rainstorm, they retreat inside. Is it a seduction that follows, or a violent molestation? Do the two engage in consensual sex, or is it date rape? Alternate opinions about the evening's events are offered, as interpreted from the various points of view of the principals and their six friends. The truth about what happened that night, though, may ultimately be subjective ... or, worse, unknowable.

Perhaps all of this hysteria would be compelling if the parties in question were even remotely likeable, or identifiable as something more than broad stereotypes. They aren't. Michael is a loud, obnoxious, rich jock, a boor whose primary objective every weekend is to add another notch to his bedpost. Sara, a walking Playboy pinup, is nominally sweet but openly ambitious when it comes to relationships: She'd rather land a date with wealth and/or fame than spend time with poor Shawn (Brad Rowe), who doesn't pass muster as a potential beau because he has yet to make a pass at her and, in her words, "doesn't even drink."

Framing the story is a tentative romance between lawyers-in-love Rick (Sean Patrick Flanery of "Suicide Kings") and Jane (Amanda Peet of TV's "Jack and Jill"), whose first night of nearly consummated affection is interrupted by the crisis at hand. Their courtship is further confused by their loyalties to their respective friends, Michael and Sara.

Every story needs its oddball character, and this movie has one in Trent (Ron Livingston of Office Space), a weird kid with a strange, golf-club fashion sense -- borrowed from Adam Sandler in "Happy Gilmore" -- and a habit of praising the joys of older women. He practically molests his tryst-mates in public, too, with show-stopping displays of public affection.

"Body Shots" (which settled on its meaningless title after legal action forced the filmmakers to drop the equally nonsensical Jello Shots), would desperately like to succeed as some kind of hip, edgy comedy-drama. Instead, it comes off as a cross between MTV's "The Real World" (albeit a version populated by better-looking self-absorbed folks) and an ABC Afterschool Special that's all grown up with no place to go.

It's an uninspired tale of a group of overgrown adolescents falling in and out of lust, love and hate. Sure, these folks are easy on the eyes. But would you want to spend time with any of them, even in a darkened theater? Neither would I.

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