March 9, 2004 -- A friend of mine lent me this DVD of “Idle Hands,” and I watched it, reluctantly. I had heard things about this movie, but he insisted it was really, really funny. Well, not really. It is a little bit funny, in a truly trashy way. I found it barely watchable, except for the soft porn stuff (the film carries an “R” rating). During the director's commentary of the film it is revealed that test audiences saw it pretty much as I did. Filling out the questionnaires, the most common response to the question, “What is the best scene in the movie,” the answer was “the titty scenes.” I would have said, “the T and A shots.” Obligingly, the climax of the film was re-shot to accommodate test audience requests to see “more” of the beautiful Jessica Alba (who plays Molly, the dim-witted girlfriend of the killer). The new scene has most of her clothes ripped off to reveal bikini-type undergarments. It may not be great cinema, but you do have to give the filmmakers credit for giving the audience what it wants.
The story centers around three slackers, Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa of “Slackers”), Mick (Seth Green of the “Austin Powers” movies) and Pnub (Elden Henson of “Under the Tuscan Sun”). These guys sit around all day watching TV and smoking pot. Anton is such a slacker that an evil spirit takes over his right hand and the hand starts killing people. Anton's hand kills about half a dozen people at the beginning of the film, including his parents, and his best friends Mick and Pnub. At this point, you are probably saying, “When do we get to the funny part?” You are well into it at this point. One of the jokes has Mick and Pnub walking into Anton's living room where his parents are lying dead in plain sight. Mick and Pnub are so fascinated by a raunchy music video (more T and A) on the television, that they ignore the murdered parents. What a laugh!
It actually does get a little funnier later on, but not much more. The jokes are as obvious as they are sick and flat. There are lots of jokes about how everything these stoners know was learned from watching TV. There are numerous references to medical knowlege they absorbed from shows like “E.R.” and “Baywatch.” There are also a lot of horror movie in-jokes and ripoffs. It doesn't help that every character in the movie, save one, is a clueless idiot. The only smart character is druid priestess Debi LeCure (Vivica A. Fox of “Kill Bill”), but even she is crazily single-minded. There are also some drug jokes, like the one about how pot smoking makes the stoners stronger, just as spinach makes Popeye stronger.
In the tradition of teen sex comedies, all of the adults, save one, are clueless morons, including, of course, the local police. I was not surprised to see in the cast and crew section of the DVD that the film's director Rodman Flender (he directs “The O.C.” TV series) was a producer for Roger Corman for a time. Corman was one of the most prolific and successful independent film producers and directors in the history of Hollywood. In addition to classics like “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Corman produced a huge number of drive-in-theater-type B movies. “Idle Hands” falls squarely in that tradition. It is a low-budget horror spoof with overtones of teen sex comedies. This is a formula almost guaranteed to make money. The target audience for this kind of movie, the sub-30-year-old crowd, has almost no discrimination, according to audience polls. Hollywood rolls out crap like this every year, and it almost always makes money. As long as this is the case, it will never get better.
This movie is actually pretty well made for a low-budget horror comedy. Flender's direction is competent, and the actors are very talented. The material, however, is beneath them all. All of these people can make better movies than this, and most of them have. This movie is a waste of time, except for the fact that it made a profit. This film rates a C.
As far as the DVD goes, it has more extras than you would expect for a film like this. There is a deleted scene (the original ending), director's and actor's commentary track, cast and crew notes, a “making of” featurette, production notes, and storyboard comparisons. The sound was O.K., but the picture seemed very dark. For those of you interested in the songs on the soundtrack, listen to the director's commentary, he names most of the songs and the groups who perform them during the scenes in which they are heard. This DVD rates a B. I, for one, am glad I did not pay anything to watch this film. They should have paid me to watch it.
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