A Repreciation: “Wild Things”

This is the first edition of “A Repreciation,” a recurring feature I hope to do where I discuss a film that may not be a “classic,” nor really Yakmala-worthy.  “Repreciation” is a condensing of “re-appreciation,” and it has led to the sweet poster mock-up above. (It’s not that sweet.) On the docket: Wild Things.

The evening I saw Wild Things, it was with some friends of mine. We went to a theatre (AMC Century City?) for an advance screening of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. We waited in line for about an hour, and were unfortunately turned away as they cut off admission a few people ahead of us. For our troubles, we were given free passes to another movie. We had already traveled some to get to the theatre, and decided to see what was playing right then. We looked at the schedule, and saw Wild Things. Someone in the group had already seen it, and recommended it highly, so we figured we’d cap the evening with that. We were all duly amazed.

Now, this film has cemented its place in masturbatory history (for example, being featured prominently in Knocked Up) with both the three-way scene in the hotel and, more significantly, the poolside lesbian scene between Neve Campbell and Denise Richards. I will break from tradition and state that I don’t find either of these scenes all that alluring. Sure, any lesbian contact in a “mainstream Hollywood” film is worth an initial watch (to me at least, but I’m gross like that), but those two? Try as she might to dirty herself up and channel Fairuza Balk’s swamp-rat from The Waterboy, Campbell just never registered with me as “hot.” Quirky, even cute on occasion, but never hot. And Denise Richards was, and still is, a walking Skipper doll, and maybe that’s fine for you. But I like my girls, I dunno, edgier?, so I never really jumped on the Denise Richards train. (And who hasn’t? Thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

I mean, eew, right?

But the lesbian scene is important, if only to point out how entertainingly batshit this film is. It happens after Campbell and Richards argue about sticking to the scam they’re pulling, then devolving into a catfight in Richards’ pool. After thrashing around for a while, Richards gazes into a frightened Campbell’s eyes, and says, “You’re really scared, aren’t you?” They then kiss, and go at it; something they stole from my upcoming movie, Lesbian Camp. Two things to note here:

  1. This all happens while Kevin Bacon’s character is videotaping them for police purposes.
  2. No one, in history, has ever started making out after having a knock-down drag-out. Girls or guys.

This movie is full of shit like this. Random plot twists, Skinemax-level dialog, and some awesome histrionic acting. I mean, Robert Wagner’s reading of “You’re finished, Lombardo!” deserves a medal.

I posit that everyone working on the film knew it was a glorified B-movie. While Kevin Bacon and Matt Dillon are not marquee names, I doubt they were slumming it that bad in the late 90s. The three-way scene, Dillon’s ridiculous seduction of Daphne Rubin-Vega’s detective, Bacon’s reading of “YOU’RE DEAD!” for the ending – no one saw these elements outside of a Wiseau shoot and seriously thought they were good. I mean, it has Robert Wagner in it. There are so many other “elder statesmen” to use; why go the camp route unless that’s exactly what you wanted in the first place?

On that note, they did cast Denise Richards, whose own bad acting almost crossed the line into being too bad for this film. That she didn’t sink the whole enterprise is a testament to everyone else involved. She never quite succeeds at being seductive – which is why she’s there in the first place – nor at being threatening either. When she’s [SPOILER ALERT, AS IF YOU CARE BY NOW] unceremoniously murdered by Bacon, almost as an afterthought to the plot [END SPOILER ALERT], you’re a bit relieved that you don’t have to see her again. In a film that really isn’t trying too hard to begin with, she’s the weak link. It’s not too surprising that she doesn’t really act anymore. There was Edmond, but that movie was ridiculous.

But let’s not forget Bill Murray. NEVER FORGET BILL MURRAY. His casting alone should have signaled that McNaughton and crew weren’t taking this seriously. Everyone points to Rushmore as Murray’s career rebirth, but Wild Things came out at least six months before, and in my mind, that’s when he broke out of the Larger than Life / The Man Who Knew Too Little doldrums. (Sure, he did the two Garfield movies, but we’ll let that slide. Gold-plated boats don’t buy themselves.) The business with the neck brace was hilarious: “There was an insurance guy around here earlier….” Much like Wagner, you don’t put Murray in a film like this without admitting that you’re just fucking around.

Wild Things, a sex film that entertains despite the sex. As much ado as was made about the film’s carnality, there’s nothing you couldn’t see at any given moment on late-night cable. (They’re not even Campbell’s real tits, guys.) The film’s true rewards are the little touches: Theresa Russell as Richards’ mom, the inbred weirdo that’s supposed to be Campbell’s brother (?) who ends up being remarkably well-spoken, Richards skeet shooting, BILL MURRAY. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but if not, do yourself a favor and rent it.

If only for the copious use of hoverboat footage. It is Florida, after all.

About Louis

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