- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

The principal stars of "A Guy Thing," Jason Lee and Julia Stiles, are talented actors. They both have strong personalities and carry themselves with poise, but there is only so much an actor can do with bad writing.
"A Guy Thing" is credited, amazingly enough, to four different screenwriters. The story they conceived is as follows:
Soon-to-be-married man gets wasted drunk at bachelor party. Wakes up with strange woman the next morning. Strange woman is fiancee's cousin. Man weaves a web of deceit to keep truth from outing. Falls in love with cousin instead.
That's it. That's the collective product of four heads. If people are being paid to compose this kind of drivel, then I suggest that you and three friends consider Hollywood screenwriting. You could scarcely do worse.
Other tortured conventions abound in "A Guy Thing": Paul Morse (Mr. Lee), the groom-to-be, has a coarse sidekick who urges him to accept his primordial maleness. He owes his job to his fiancee's (Selma Blair) father. There is a bibulous old Irish aunt, a pot-smoking Hispanic sales clerk and a psycho cop.
Burrowing deep into the bag of trite plot tricks, the movie also wheels out the creaky Clash of the Classes stereotype: The bride's parents (James Brolin and Diana Scarwid) are wealthy, prim and refined; the groom's mother and stepfather (Julie Hagerty and David Koechner) are loopy, tactless and uncultivated.
Been there, done that. "A Guy Thing" adds nothing new to the lore of marriage-week hijinks and uneasy family mergers. You could rent Tom Hanks' "Bachelor Party" and have roughly the same experience.
Plot insipidity aside, "A Guy Thing" doesn't sully my opinion of Mr. Lee and Miss Stiles, who plays the fiancee's cousin, Becky. I'm willing to forget this little incident, because the pair does manage to salvage some charm from an otherwise charmless movie.
In his first true leading role, the eminently likable Mr. Lee best known as the very funny second banana in Kevin Smith's "Mallrats" and "Chasing Amy," and as a '70s rock singer in Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" doesn't quite shine in "A Guy Thing." But through sheer frenetic energy and jokey pizazz, he does a fair job of conveying a man on the brink of implosion.
There's only so much he can do, however, with stupid material. At some point, Hollywood is going to have to reconcile itself to the fact that diarrhea and flatulent noises are not inherently funny.
Miss Stiles, too, is better than her lines allow her to be. With a background in theater and Shakespeare, she knows how to woo a camera as well as a live audience. In "A Guy Thing," as in David Mamet's "State and Main," she achieves a delicate balance of innocence and luridness. The girl, quite simply, knows how to be irresistible.
Miss Blair's character seems blameless and attractive enough, but one can't help but to root for Miss Stiles. As the free-spirited and whimsical and bilingual Becky with as many odd jobs as there are days in the week, she's a perfect foil to the play-it-safe Paul.
Director Chris Koch, however, does nothing interesting or compelling with the couple, ruining what could have been a decently enchanting romantic comedy.
Instead, we get a crude and imbecilic farce. An example: As they're trapped in a bathtub by a ferocious dog, Paul is forced to smell Becky's feet.
If you find that kind of thing funny, then enjoy "A Guy Thing."

*
TITLE:
"A Guy Thing"
RATING:
PG-13 (Some profanity, crude jokes about soiled undergarments and venereal disease, marijuana humor, mild sexual suggestiveness)
CREDITS:
Directed by Chris Koch. Screenplay by Greg Glienna, Pete Schwaba, Matt Tarses and Bill Wrubel. Produced by David Ladd and David Nicksay
RUNNING TIME:
101 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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