Friday March 30, 2001
comedy targeting young males, stars Jerry O'Connell as a likable guy with a serious problem and a short time to solve it. O'Connell's Michael Delaney is an aspiring L.A.-based cartoonist who's gone off to Las Vegas for the wedding of one of his pals, only to be so distracted at a gaming table by a truly spectacular redhead (Amber Smith) that he swiftly loses $51,000, and is given one month by the casino's proprietor (an unbilled, delightfully droll Bill Maher) to pay it off or pay with his life.
What is Michael to do? Here's where writer-director Gregory Poirier's prologue, set seven years earlier, kicks in. Michael hangs out with a group of single guys who call themselves the Tomcats because they are so ardently dedicated to the so-many-women, so-little-time philosophy of life. Yet their pal Steve (Horatio Sanz), a portly proctologist, has succumbed to matrimony, inspiring the Tomcats to establish a betting pool that will go to the last man remaining single. At this point, only Michael and his lifelong friend Kyle (Jake Busey), a crassly exuberant playboy, are still bachelors.
When Kyle reveals that the only woman who ever touched him emotionally was the beautiful Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), whom he deflowered one night on the beach at Malibu, Michael sees his only hope of survival in locating her and somehow getting her married to Kyle in extremely short order. Natalie turns out to be a Los Angeles cop who wouldn't mind exacting revenge on her seducer, who abandoned her with only enough quarters to call a cab. There's just one hitch: Michael, who in Natalie's estimation possesses a tender heart beneath a slick exterior, finds himself falling in love with her.
Once Poirier, in his shrewd directorial debut, has set his plot in motion, he has ample opportunity for all manner of shenanigans and crude humor. There's an abundance of gleeful tastelessness that actually is pretty funny, and there is a long comic sequence that turns upon what would seem the least amusing subject imaginable: testicular cancer. Amazingly, Poirier actually manages to parlay it into laughter.
Poirier sets off Michael's transformation by love, deftly expressed by O'Connell, against nonstop mayhem, and O'Connell is well-matched by Elizabeth, razor-sharp as the lovely and ultra-focused Natalie, and by Busey, who plays Kyle as a party animal so mindless and oblivious as to verge on innocence.
Raucously energetic and replete with a barrage of graphic sexual humor, "Tomcats" is scarcely the kind of picture expected to possess so much as an ounce of subtlety. Yet without any ado the Tomcats include an openly gay man, who turns up at a gathering years later where, like most everybody else, he is happily ensconced with a spouse and children. It's a nice touch of inclusiveness that also suggests the Tomcats are more secure than they may realize.
Former Walt Disney Studio chief Joe Roth's Revolution Studios has projects with the likes of Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis and director Paul Thomas Anderson in the pipeline, but it's fitting that Roth has launched his new venture with the sort of unpretentious, youth-oriented fare pioneered by his legendary father-in-law, American International Pictures co-founder Sam Arkoff.
Tomcats, 2001. MPAA-rated: R, for strong sexual content, including dialogue, and for language. A Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios presentation of an Eagle Cove Entertainment production. Writer-director Gregory Poirier. Producers Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig, Paul Kurta. Executive producer Todd Garner. Cinematographer Charles Minsky. Editor Harry Keramidas. Music David Kitay. Costumes Alix Friedberg. Production designer Robb Wilson King. Art director Jim Donahue. Set designers Nancy Deren, William Taliaferro. Set decorator Linda Lee Sutton, Rona De Angelo. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. Jerry O'Connell as Michael Delaney. Shannon Elizabeth as Natalie Parker. Jake Busey as Kyle Brenner. Horatio Sanz as Steve.