Screwed (John Wynn, 2013)
I swear I already wrote a review of this movie, but I can’t find it anywhere. Oh, well, let’s try it again.
When it comes to what is now known as the “late night comedy”, which is basically the eighties teen sex comedy but with older protagonists, the main problem is that they tend to be rom-coms with an added softcore component. The caveat here should be obvious; you mess it up and you end up with the worst parts of rom-com and the worst parts of softcore with none of the good stuff. While Screwed is not a perfect movie by any means, Wynn (turning in his first feature) and screenwriter Eric Rogers (Futurama) come up with some inventive and fun ways to get around those pitfalls while turning in a cute movie that’s actually sort of intelligent.
Plot: Will (Resolution‘s Kurt David Anderson), at the beginning of the movie, seems to have it good, though not good enough that he’s not selling the prize of his comic book collection to get the scratch for an engagement ring. He’s about to pop the question to Jen (The 40-Year-Old Virgin‘s Brianna Brown), his girlfriend of eighteen months… until he gets to her house and walks in on her with another guy. During the ensuing fight, she reveals that Will is a terrible lover, and he gets confirmation of this from every former squeeze he can track down. It’s at this point that we find out that the rest of Will’s life is just about as messed up as his love life. His crazy father (The Amazing Spider-Man‘s Kevin McCorkle) has moved in with him but is still stalking his wife, boss Ryan (I Am That Girl‘s Matt Ferrucci) is a sexist pig who hits on any woman who comes into the low-rent party supply store where Will works while dreaming of being a comic book writer, a dream encouraged by his best friend Nathan (Georgia Rule‘s Nathan Moore), an illustrator. While returning some adult videos for his dad, he stumbles upon a videocassette that guarantees to turn him into one of the world’s legendary lovers as long as he follows its rules. Desperate to win Jen back, he gives it a go, but then immediately meets Emma (Movie 43‘s Julie McNiven), a girl-next-door type who works at a doggie day care near the party supply store. The attraction between the two is obvious, but is Will smart enough to realize it, and can he keep his tape-ordered extracurricular activities a secret from both of his paramours?
The good, though I will say that judging by some of the user reviews I’ve read, YMMV on whether these are good points: the filmmakers avoided both the softcore and the rom-com pitfalls. They avoided the softcore pitfalls by keeping the movie almost entirely nudity-free (there are a few bare-butt shots). This has proven… somewhat unpopular with viewers of the film who have reviewed it online. But it served its purpose well: the absence of T&(almost)A challenges film viewers to focus on the story and characters. In a sex comedy, that’s almost courting disaster…unless you know you have the skills. This script does. A lot of the minor characters are disturbingly hilarious; Will’s father is ridiculous, and the family who run the video rental place are the source of many of the movie’s most uncomfortable laughs. The major characters, on the other hand, are generally well-drawn. (Jen is the exception; I assumed this was a conscious decision, though I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a good one.)
The bad things are a little more distressing, though again, YMMV. I know a number of people like Ryan. None of them are in any way funny, and neither is he. There’s also one character-breaking joke that is mean-spirited in the extreme (you’ll know it when you get to it) and completely blows Will’s character, albeit temporarily. It’s also predictable, but I tried not to take off for that one. After all, what was the last rom-com you saw that wasn’t?
None of the bad things are enough for me to say you shouldn’t see this. Go into it with no expectations, turn your brain off, and have a good time. ** ½