More Movie Reviews by Christopher Null

The Lovemaster (1996), Swingers (1996)

Also in this issue of Eclectica: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), Surviving Picasso (1996), Sleepers (1996), Michael Collins (1996), Trees Lounge (1996)

The Lovemaster

Comedian Craig Shoemaker says pretty early on in his new film The Lovemaster, "My life is my act!"

He's not joking, and if you've ever heard any of Shoemaker's stand-up material, you know what you're in for with his feature film, where Shoemaker blends his multiple stage personalities with stories about growing up, the mysteries of women, and 1970's television, the result being a campy goulash of howlingly-funny comedy.

Most of the film is cut together from an Arizona stand-up performance, where Shoemaker's real forte shines. That forte is the characters that he plays on stage, from a much-too-realistic Barney Fife, to "vagina man" (don't ask), to the end-all, be-all of human lust -- The Lovemaster, a guy so sexy he makes Barry White look like a wuss. Shoemaker slips in and out of these characters like a schizophrenic without his Prozac, getting more and more twisted until finally, safe-&-sane Craig inevitably pops out, trying to undo all he's done with a fey cry, "Erase! Erase! Erase!"

While the 82-minute picture is mostly stand-up, it also includes some flashback vignettes outside the club, mainly to expound upon jokes Shoemaker has going on inside. These mainly involve Craig and his therapist (George Wendt), wife (Harley Jane Kozak), platonic friend (Courtney Thorne-Smith), and dream date (Farrah Fawcett). And while these bits are supposed to show you how his life *is* his act, the act itself is usually a lot funnier. (Austinites will also enjoy cameos from the city's KLBJ morning radio personalities -- Dale Dudley, Bob Fonseca, and Debra Cole.)

Of course, making a movie in the environs of a comedy club certainly has its limitations, and Shoemaker does his best to overcome them, mainly by toying with audience members, and succeeds as well as can be expected. Still, there's something lacking in the production values of the whole thing. And while the jokes don't really get going until the halfway point, The Lovemaster still remains a fine example of the stand-up genre.

Besides, where else can you see Barney Fife talk dirty in slow-motion?

RATING: ***1/2


One of the most sincere and earnest looks into single life in the 90's, Swingers is nothing but -- in the terms of its resident lounge lizards -- money.

You've probably seen print ads, movie reviews, and the like, portraying Swingers as a film about a bunch of suave and sexy guys, making the moves on the pretty babies (aka women) in the nightlife of La-La land. The title's double entendre doesn't help matters, either, so let me set the record straight.

Swingers is about a bunch of guys in L.A., yes, but they aren't overly suave, with the exception of Trent (the hysterically funny Vince Vaughn), who lives in an apparent fantasy world of Clockwork Orange-y faux-English doublespeak. His best friend is Mike (Jon Favreau, who also wrote the script), a down-and-out actor/comedian suffering over the breakup with his girlfriend of six years. Rob (Ron Livingston) and Sue (is in "a boy named Sue," Patrick Van Horn) are both actors/losers also.

Weaving through Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Trent, Mike, and their friends turn out to pretty much be high-talkers and low-rollers, about like everyone else. We see that these are regular guys, each with his own demons, each as insecure as you and me. But they talk a big game.

Sound familiar? In the end, Swingers perfectly humanizes its players, makes a touching statement about getting back on your feet after love knocks you down, and, most importantly, comes off as really, really, really funny. Favreau and director Doug Liman are sure to hit the big time after this, and Vaughn (who's already been picked to star in Jurassic Park II) ought to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination, at least.

Swingers is one of those very rare movies where you really come out a changed, happier person -- at least for a while. Hey, maybe I'm money, and I don't even know it!

And am I the only one that thinks Favreau looks *exactly* like George Clooney? And yes, Doug, that Aaton-III camera is *way* too loud.

RATING: ****1/2


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