The Party Animal

Director: David Beaird   
Matthew Causey, Robin Harlan, Tim Carhart

It should come as no surprise that as a movie critic, I love movies. It also should come as no surprise that there are some kinds of movies that I have a weakness for. For example, I love westerns, from the goofy charm and innocence found in Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers kiddie oaters to the stylish and violent spaghetti flicks made in Europe decades later. I am also a fan of Hong Kong cinema, with its over-the-top action sequences set either in modern or ancient times, as well as its often naughty and adults-only attitude found in movies like Naked Killer and Robotrix (at least until the People's Republic Of China took over in 1997, making Hong Kong filmmakers afraid to do anything really controversial in their movies.) But even though I love movies and really love specific genres like I've just described, there are still several movie genres that have done little to nothing for me over the years, despite giving those genres several chances each. I've mentioned before that Korean cinema doesn't impress me very much, though the last Korean movie that I saw - Save The Green Planet - managed to work enough so that I would give it a mediocre rating, so maybe there's hope for this particular side of Asian cinema. I am also not a fan of motorcycle movies. I'm not talking about motorcycle movies like Easy Rider (which was good), but motorcycle movies that involve motorcycle gangs, and their one-note chortling villains and lame shenanigans that would be hard-pressed to get a PG rating today. Beach party movies I also find lame, with their lame songs and squeaky-clean attitude towards sex.

I realize that the three genres I described in the previous paragraph have their fans, so I am trying to tread lightly here. If you like any or all of those genres, that's fine with me; I would rather you have a happy experience with a movie or an entire genre rather than a negative one. But there are a couple of other movie genres that I don't like that I'm confident that I will find ample company in my hatred. The first one is the pornographic genre. Though I'll admit that I haven't viewed many examples of the genre, the few movies I've seen have been so cold, so mechanical, that I can't see that there can't be very many good examples. Even a so-called "classic" of the genre that one critic called one of the ten best adult movies ever made (Captain Lust) was an ordeal for me. I actually have been determined to improve the genre for some time now. I am currently working on the screenplay for an adult movie that's a spoof of a major Hollywood movie, like many other adult movies are. It's called The Loin King, and like the movie it's spoofing, it's a musical. The opening birth sequence will be scored by the song It's The Cir....cumcision Of Life, the hero's dream of his future will have him performing the song I Just Can't Wait To Get Laid, and the romantic scene of the hero and his girlfriend will be scored by the song Can You Feel His Love Tonight? (On second thought, it all sounds bad enough to be a typical porno.)

The other genre I haven't mentioned before that I dislike is a distant cousin to the porno genre, the youth-oriented sex comedy. I still remember my first experience with this particular genre. When I was in junior high, it seemed that all my classmates had seen Porky's, and overhearing their conversations about it lead me to believe that it was the funniest movie ever made. I could not go out and watch it, because my family seemed to be the last one in the neighborhood to get a VCR. When we finally got a VCR, I rented the movie, popped it into the machine, and prepared to be tickled pink. While watching the movie, I was stunned; my classmates actually thought this was funny? I should have remembered that I was a non-conformist, which I learned back in my pre-school days when unlike other children, I thought that Ernie was an annoying and somewhat cruel individual while I admired his friend Bert for his individualism. I will give Porky's this, though; unlike other Canadian movies, it was a real movie (Take that, David Macdonald!) My further investigations of this genre proved almost equally fruitless. I will admit American Pie was okay, and I liked half of The Last American Virgin (the half that had the soundtrack and when it took things seriously), but otherwise I have been numbed by the badness of movies from this genre. So why did I decide to watch and review The Party Animal? It might have been the goofy art on the VHS box. It might have been that I heard the soundtrack was good. I'm not sure. Anyway, here's the plot. Pondo Sinatra (Causey) is a college student with the worst kind of luck. He's never had sex, and he can't get laid despite making dozens of attempts. So he decides to concoct an aphrodisiac that will make him irresistible to the ladies.

Based on that short plot description, you might be thinking that while writing it I was in a temporary state of laziness that thwarted my typical long-winded style of writing. But in actual fact, there is not that much more plot to be found in The Party Animal. Maybe there was originally more plot in the screenplay written before production began, but there's not that much more plot in the finished version. I say this, because there are several signs that The Party Animal suffered from a troubled production. The first sign is with the running time; including the closing credits, the movie just runs a brief 77 minutes long. The second sign I dug up while doing a little research on the movie. Although David Bearid is the only director credited in the movie, my research uncovered the fact that another director - Harvey Hart (who also directed Shoot) - directed some of this movie. A director being replaced, or brought in to do some reshoots, is usually not a good sign. There are definitely some scenes in the movie that suggest some post-production patch-ups. During the beginning of the movie, as well as during the end of the movie, there is some voice-over narration by some of the supporting characters, as well as footage of them sitting down in front of the camera and talking to the audience directly. In both of those parts of the movie, it feels like it was a desperate last-minute attempt to try and make things clear to the audience.

Despite these apparent patch-ups, there is still a significant amount of the movie that is unclear. There is a blonde woman (who never speaks once in the movie) who appears several times in the movie, in most instances when Pondo is lamenting his situation and saying things like, "I'd sell my soul for a piece of ass!" This and some other stuff may be small hints that she is actually the Devil in disguise, but by the last shot of the movie that's she in, you won't be absolutely sure if this is the fact or if there's another explanation for this character. (By the way, sharp-eyed viewers will spot the fact that the last shot of the movie that this character is in is in fact the same footage of her that was previously seen as the first shot of the movie, only that this same shot is run backwards at this point - another problem sign.) There is a lot more in the movie that seems missing for one reason or another. There's a scene where Pondo disguises himself as a woman and gets into a sorority, and starts a strip poker game with some of the women there. When Pondo's true identity is revealed (in one of the movie's funnier moments), you would expect that we would see the women do the expected thing and scream and chase Pondo away. Instead, the scene abruptly ends at this point and goes to the next scene with no explanation as to what happened. Then there are scenes that serve no purpose except maybe they were added late in production to pad out the running time. Why does Pondo go to a nightclub with male strippers at one point? And I won't get started on the movie's dream sequences that show and tell us nothing that we already know.

You might be wondering at this point if in this sloppily-made movie there's anything that works. Well, yes, there are several things I liked about The Party Animal, enough that I can safely say this is a notch above the usual efforts you'll find in this dubious genre. The report I heard about its soundtrack was accurate; the soundtrack is indeed great. There are songs from groups that will be familiar to some viewers, including The Fleshtones and the Buzzcocks; the latter's song "Why Can't I Touch It" makes a perfect comment on Pondo's situation. The rest of the songs are performed by groups unfamiliar to me, but manage to stand up to the songs coming from the famous names. Causey himself performs a catchy number ("The Party Animal") that the credits indicate he also co-wrote. But there's more merit to The Party Animal than just the soundtrack. There were several moments in the movie that I found to be genuinely funny, which is a lot more than I usually find in a movie of this genre. One of these moments was a scene obviously inspired by the classic play Cyrano De Bergerac, where Pondo on a picnic date is given romantic advice via radio and headphones by his friend Studly (Carhart, The Hunt For Red October). It's a ludicrous situation that goes hilariously out of control quickly. The funniest scene in the movie is a throwaway bit at a sex shop, where two of the store's employees get into a discussion on the S.A.L.T. talks, with one of them making his points by using sex toys as props.

I also enjoyed the acting in the movie. Although the cast is almost completely filled with actors and actresses who did little to nothing else before or afterwards, I can't recall a bad performance by any one individual. As the campus janitor and caretaker, Jerry Jones (writer of and actor in several Rudy Ray Moore movies) may not be in too much of the movie, but he is amusing as an experienced romancer who gives Pondo advice. Pondo's best friend and roommate is played by Tim Carhart who could have been repulsive as someone who always successfully bags the girls, but Carhart manages to make him a likable fellow. But the performance that makes the most impact comes from Causey as the frustrated Pondo. Appearing in almost every shot of the movie, he gives a bug-eyed, wild man performance that's stands out as the highlight of the movie. He does a lot more for the movie than the movie does for him. The movie suffers from more than just a ragged feel to it. Eventually the movie becomes exhausting to view. We are treated to Pondo's attempts to get laid over and over again, and it becomes tiring. If there was a subplot about something different, maybe the movie would be more bearable. It would also have helped if more of these scenes of Pondo trying to get laid were actually funny. Most of the humor in the movie is typical for the genre - lazy, unimaginative, and occasionally seriously misguided. Despite some bright spots, overall The Party Animal is little more than a curio, where the filmmakers may have thought they were heading towards classic status with the good material they had, but the fact that this has stayed an unknown movie says otherwise.

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See also: Hollywood High, Hot Resort, King Frat