[Screen It]


(1998) (David Schwimmer, Jason Lee) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Romantic Comedy: A soon-to-be married womanizer worries that his fiancÚ may not always be monogamous, and thus asks his lifelong best friend to see if the woman will be unfaithful with him.
Max Abbott (DAVID SCHWIMMER) is Chicago's favorite TV sportscaster and a well-known womanizer. It comes as a shock, therefore, when he announces that he's in love with Samantha Andrews (MILI AVITAL), a literary editor who's just about as opposite as one could get from him. His best friend and author, Jay Murphy (JASON LEE), is even more shocked when Max says he and Sam will soon marry. Jay's still trying to get over his ex-girlfriend, Natasha (VANESSA ANGEL), dumping him, and he never thought that Max and Sam would fall for each other so fast after he set them up.

Reality soon sets in for Max, however, and he begins to realize that his womanizing ways will soon be over. He also wonders whether Sam can be monogamous, and so asks Jay for a favor -- to see if she'll be unfaithful with him. Jay refuses, but when Linda (BONNIE HUNT), his publisher and Sam's boss, pushes up his deadline, he and Sam end up closely working together. As Max wonders how Sam will do in his "test," little does he realize that he may be pushing his best friend and fiancÚ into becoming something more than just co-workers.

If they like romantic comedies or are fans of Schwimmer (Ross on TV's "Friends") or anyone else in the cast, they just might.
For strong language.
  • DAVID SCHWIMMER plays an arrogant womanizer who makes his best friend test his fiances' monogamy, while he himself cheats on her. He also uses extreme profanity and drinks some.
  • JASON LEE plays Max's best friend. Insecure due to a devastating breakup with his girlfriend, he also drinks quite a lot and is drunk in one scene.
  • MILI AVITAL plays a literary editor who quickly decides to marry Max and has him move in with her.


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    When will they ever learn? No, we're not talking about people who constantly speed and then complain about the tickets they get. Nor are we referring to people who complain about hangovers when they're the ones responsible for their own condition. No, we're talking about TV stars who, despite the established odds and better wisdom, set out -- like lemmings following each other over a cliff's edge to their demise -- to become movie stars. In some respects, one can't really blame them. While TV performers are celebrities in their own right, there's something special about being a movie star -- a certain aura and glamor associated with appearing on the big screen. And, the big salaries don't hurt either.

    Yet, despite the many stars on TV and their massive popularity -- often seen by more than thirty million people per week that would equate to more than $150 million at the box office -- few have successfully migrated to the big screen. While many have tried, most have gone down in flames and returned to the "boob tube."

    Take for instance, the cast of TV's popular "Friends." While the show's audience has waned somewhat since its heyday, it's still extremely popular. Nonetheless, the cast members -- notwithstanding Courteney Cox who "lucked out" by landing in the two "Scream" movies -- have all failed miserably on the big screen. David Schwimmer ("Ross"), for instance, flopped in his debut, "The Pallbearer." That's probably an apt description of what he's going to need for his film career after his latest attempt, "Kissing A Fool."

    I don't have anything personal against Schwimmer and find him enjoyable in "Friends." It's just that he hasn't done a decent job in picking his film projects. Take this feature for instance -- a better title would have been "Kissing a Sibling." For while the necessary elements for a romantic comedy are in place, it -- like kissing your brother or sister -- just isn't any fun and lacks the usual sparks associated with such activities.

    Much of that relates to the cast's chemistry, or lack thereof. Sure, opposites attract, but it's never once believable that Sam would date Max, let alone marry him -- and on such short notice -- especially considering his womanizing past. Also, it's never believable that he would be the heartthrob of Chicago -- or that women would be throwing themselves into his bed and then be devastated that he was now off the market.

    Thus, knowing that Max and Sam are exact opposites (they even have to tell us that in the dialogue) and will never stay together, we're left with Jay and Sam as our "dream" couple. By the romantic comedy bylaws, we know that they'll finally get together despite many obstacles that seemingly will prevent that from happening. Even so, the sparks never really fly between them.

    Similarly, one never believes the supposed lifelong best friend relationship between Max and Jay. While opposites often attract in love, the same rarely holds true in friendships that usually abort such incongruous relationships. We never know why these two guys would remotely be friends, and even so, Jay would end such a relationship after Max's ridiculous "test" request.

    Much of that problem falls on Schwimmer's shoulders and the way his character is written. The guy is a creep, but unlike Jack Nicholson's character in the recent film, "As Good As It Gets," this guy doesn't have any charm to offset his nasty and despicable behavior. While Nicholson's character is worse than Schwimmer's, we never like Max compared to our affection that continually grows for Melvin Udall. Of course, I'm not sure if you're ever supposed to like Max, but that only deflates any interest in his part of the story. It also dispels any belief that he and Sam are the ones who get married (the story is presented as a mystery of sorts about who the married couple is that we see at the beginning).

    Jason Lee and Mili Avital are more successful and likeable in their roles. Avital ("Stargate") plays the somewhat stereotypical female romantic interest and delivers an enjoyable, but flat performance -- you won't remember much about her after you've left the theater. It's Lee who really stands out. Somewhat obscured, but still funny in last year's "Chasing Amy," here he gets a larger part and more of a chance to show his stuff. Playing the "everybody's been in his shoes" jilted lover, he immediately -- and by default -- gets our sympathy vote and is the one the audience roots for to finally succeed in romance.

    One of the film's bigger problems is that, for a romantic comedy, it's just not that funny. Whenever the biggest and most laughs come from one-liners not associated with the plot elements themselves, you know you're in trouble. While the gist of the plot -- a guy asks his friend to see if his fiancÚ will cheat on him with that friend -- has some comic potential, none of it is ever realized. There are a few laughs, but they mostly come from moments such as Bonnie Hunt's character commenting that she's going to get her chest waxed, instead of moments originating from the main body of the plot.

    What's also surprising is that director Doug Ellin (who helmed the disastrous "Phat Beach") and novice screenwriter James Frey decided to pepper the script with liberal uses of extreme profanity (nearly 50 "f" words). The language does nothing for the film, it limits the potential audience (by getting an R rating) and comes off as a cheap imitation of Kevin Smith's films such as "Chasing Amy." While the latter has much more graphic dialogue, it gets away with it due to the clever and very amusing writing. Here it feels forced and completely out of place -- as if Schwimmer himself was saying, "Hey, I'm not on TV right now and I can cuss up a storm." They could have dropped all of it without hurting the movie at all.

    The film will also come off as an odd choice on Schwimmer's part. While we now associate him with romantic comedies from his TV show, the guy he plays here isn't likeable at all. Jim Carrey can survive such failed experimentation ("The Cable Guy"), but Schwimmer isn't established enough to risk alienating his core audience. Granted, he's trying to stretch his acting wings and get out from under his Ross character before he's forever stereotyped as him (attention, Gary Burghoff, Michael Richards, etc...), but this role won't do anything for his career. While fans of the romantic comedy genre will probably find the film tolerable -- it's not horrible by any means, it's just slow and mundane -- they won't give it anything nearing a large audience during its theatrical run. We give "Kissing A Fool" a 4 out of 10.

    Extreme profanity (nearly 50 "f" words) will probably surprise most people about this film. Some sexual talk is also present, as is a brief scene where we see scantily clad strippers (bare butts in thong bottoms) and a skimpily dressed "cheerleader" in a quick fantasy segment. Obviously Schwimmer's character has a bad attitude, and there's a moderate amount of drinking, with one of the characters being a heavy drinker (whom we see drunk in one scene). Beyond that, many of the other categories have little or no objectionable content in them. Since some teens will probably want to see this film, however, you should look through the content before they see it.

  • People at a wedding, including Linda, drink champagne.
  • We see a made up scene where Sam drinks Scotch and appears to be drunk.
  • Jay drinks in a bar.
  • Jay and Max have beers while moving Max into Sam's place, and again later.
  • Jay drinks some liquor while talking to Natasha on the phone (and we see several empty glasses near her bed).
  • Jay says that he used to be "stoned all of the time" and that he doesn't know how many emotions were real and how many were "manufactured" to get a person "to bring over more pot."
  • Max and Jay drink beer in a jazz club.
  • Jay drinks a shot while Sam has a drink in a bar.
  • Sam has a drink and others drink beer in a bar.
  • Sam and Jay drink in a bar (she does one shot of vodka, while he does several).
  • Jay drinks beer early in the day and later we see him drinking liquor from a brown paper bag.
  • The threesome drinks wine with a meal.
  • None.
  • Max is an arrogant womanizer who thinks he's a big thing since he's a TV sportscaster.
  • In a made up story, Max takes Sam to a strip club (where he's ignorant to her being obviously uncomfortable).
  • Max is upset that Sam is going to be the last woman he sleeps with, and so tries to get Jay to see if Sam will sleep with him as a test of her commitment. Meanwhile, he sleeps with another woman and thinks nothing of it.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Shut the 'f' up," "Bang" and "Jump her bones" (used sexually), "Bitch" (said by Jay about Linda for moving up his writing deadline), "Idiot," "Shut up," "Nuts" (crazy), "Whore," "Moron," "Jack off" (noun), "Sucked," "Suck," and "Faggot."
  • Sam has Max move into her place and they briefly live together.
  • A woman gives Max "the finger" after he won't sleep with her.
  • None.
  • There's just one scene with some mock scary music in it.
  • None.
  • At least 47 "f" words (4 used sexually as are several uses of the word "bang"), 15 "s" words, 3 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" word), 7 hells, 4 asses (2 using "hole"), 2 craps, and 5 uses each of "God" and "Oh my God," 3 uses each of "Jesus" and "Oh God," and 1 use each of "For Christ's sake," "Christ" and 1 possible use of "G-damn" as exclamations.
  • Max's makeup artist flirtatiously tells him that she's not wearing any underwear.
  • Max asks Jay (about Sam), "Did you Americanize her? Did you bang her?"
  • Jay asks Max, "You've never been in a mourning period where you just didn't want to have sex?" Max replies that he hasn't.
  • Sam tells a fabricated story about Max taking her to strip club where we see buxom women in skimpy outfits, some of which reveal their cleavage, as well as their bare butts in their thong-like bottoms. Later (in this same made up story), he asks her is she's ever had sex in a Mercedes.
  • We see Natasha in bed with two other men (but all they're doing is sleeping) after she mockingly told Jay that she gets "coked up and has orgies."
  • Max has a quick fantasy and sees a woman walking down the street with pom poms and dressed in a skimpy bra, underwear and garters.
  • A woman tells Max that she'll have sex with him "with no strings attached."
  • Max has a daydream where Sam opens her shirt and we see her in her bra and underwear. She then jumps onto him and we briefly see the side of her bare butt. As Max tells Jay about this encounter, he says, "We're not talking about cable porn, this is pure rental."
  • Max mentions that women who went to Catholic girls schools have "pent up sexual energy" because they were denied "it" in their youth, and thinks that Sam is going to go on "a sexual rampage."
  • After Sam accidentally wakes up Max, he asks "Do you want to have sex?" She responds, "Do you?" and he replies "Either way."
  • Natasha rips open Jay's shirt and tries to get wild on him, but he doesn't respond.
  • Although we don't see it, Max had sex with another woman.
  • Nearly every time we see Linda, she's smoking.
  • Sam smokes in one flashback scene (that's actually made up).
  • People smoke in the background in a bar.
  • None.
  • Trust in relationships.
  • None.

  • Reviewed February 19, 1998

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