- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

The title is probably fair warning, but "Tomcats" may prove an ordeal if you resent sex gags that show complete contempt for subtlety. To be fair, writer-director Gregory Poirier does blunder into occasional subtleties, which skeptics will be tempted to ascribe to dumb luck rather than deliberation.
For example, a sequence set at a sperm bank in the late going culminates in surprisingly deadpan and arguably funny payoffs.
Perhaps someone else came in and revamped the sequence while Mr. Poirier was understandably indisposed with brain fever.
As a rule, "Tomcats" orchestrates its nifties with all the finesse of a head-on collision. The timing is oddly amusing, since a droopy competitor, "Say It Isnt So," entered the market last weekend bearing the imprint of the Farrelly Brothers, ostensibly kings of the franchise since perpetrating "Theres Something About Mary."
The work of somewhat apologetic proteges, "Say So" never worked up a farcical head of steam. For what its worth, "Tomcats" comes out snorting, evidently aspiring to whup the Farrellys at their own game.
On the occasion of a wedding ceremony in the recent past, seven or eight cronies decide to participate in a last-man-standing wager. The guys are losing their first sacrifice to marriage.
Theres no telling how many others will fall to tradition. A fund is established that will enrich the last bachelor in the group.
Catching up with a farcical present, the movie finds Jerry OConnell and Jake Busey as the final eligible holdouts: cartoonist Michael and libertine Kyle, respectively.
A gambling delirium leaves Michael gravely in debt to a Las Vegas casino. (Bill Maher, no doubt having turned down dozens of other offers, appears as the unforgiving manager.)
Taking dead aim on the treasure, Michael conspires to lure Kyle into a love affair with marital consequences. The scheme depends on a vice cop named Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), ditched years earlier by Kyle and evidently susceptible to the idea of getting even and sharing the loot.
It wouldnt be surprising to learn that similar mercenary schemes had backfired many times before in the history of comedy, from say Plautus to Billy Wilder.
Come to think of it, "Kiss Me, Stupid" would be a perfectly appropriate title for "Tomcats," although Mr. Poirier seems to favor an alternate three-word title that happens to be emphatically lewd.
Mr. OConnells likability is put to an extreme test as Michael. If some sort of dare is involved, the actor and his agent might want to back off before everyone agrees that, yes, Jerry OConnell has crashed through the Steve Guttenberg barrier, with a crazed vengeance.
Mr. Busey manages to make some of Kyles loathsomeness funny, especially the vanity of patting his bare rump while posing in thong briefs.
Thats kind of a G-rated moment in the context of "Tomcats." Heather Stephens seems a legitimate secret weapon as a shy librarian named Jill, a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.
Mr. Poirier also seems to incline in a more clever direction when inserting brief parodies of Tom Cruise as a rock climber in "Mission: Impossible, Part II" and Mena Suvari covered with rose petals in "American Beauty."
I might actually go to bat for a "Tomcats" burlesque of "American Beauty." In the meantime approach at your own peril.

One star out of four

TITLE: "Tomcats"

RATING: R (Frequent profanity and systmatic sexual vulgarity, with an emphasis on lewd allusions and sightgags; occasional nudity and simulated intercourse)

CREDITS: Written and Directed by Gregory Poirier. Cinematography by Charles Minsky. Production Design by Robb Wilson King. Costume Design by Alix Friedberg. Music by David Kitay

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes


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