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"SENSELESS"
(1998) (Marlon Wayans, David Spade) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
*Moderate *Minor Mild None None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Minor None *Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Minor Moderate Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: After agreeing to take an experimental drug that will heighten his five senses, a broke college student takes too much and consequently creates a dilemma for himself as at any moment he may not be able to see, hear, taste, smell or feel anything around him.
PLOT:
Darryl Witherspoon (MARLON WAYANS) is a smart, vivacious economics major at Stratford University. Broke, and willing to do anything to pay the bills and support his mother and younger siblings, Darryl agrees to be a human guinea pig for Doctor Wheedon (BRAD DOURIF), a university professor who's conducting tests on an experimental drug. If successful, that drug will enhance the five human senses -- sight, smell, hearing, feel, and taste -- to levels previously only experienced by animals. Darryl is also desperate to get a job with a high profile investment firm that is only choosing a handful of candidates for its one junior analyst position, and so he buddies up with one of their partners, Randall Tyson (RIP TORN). Unfortunately, Scott Butler (DAVID SPADE), a snobbish, well-to-do classmate, also wants the position and will do anything to prevent Darryl from getting it.

Once the experimental drug kicks in, however, Darryl's confidence grows as he finds that he can do things better than anyone else. He impresses the firm's partners, as well as Janice (TAMARA TAYLOR), an attractive classmate, but his punk rocker roommate, Tim LaFlour (MATTHEW LILLARD), suspects Darryl is a drug addict. That problem gets bigger when Darryl takes too much of the drug and finds that he only has control of four of his five senses at any given time. As he tries to impress both the firm and Janice, Darryl must contend with that fact that he never knows which sense he might lose at any moment.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of Wayans ("The Sixth Man," TV's "In Living Color"), Spade (TV's "Just Shoot Me," "Saturday Night Live"), or goofy comedies, they just might. Preteens, however, will probably have little or no interest in seeing it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language and sexual content.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • MARLON WAYANS plays a hard-working student who's driven to succeed not only to better himself, but also to support his family. He does, however, sign up to take an experimental drug (in exchange for cash) and soon relies on it and believes that it's made his life better. While he eventually learns that it's a bad thing, some kids may connect his success with "drugs" and then miss the ending where he admits to everything.
  • DAVID SPADE plays a conceited, sarcastic rich boy who does everything in his power to make sure that he beats out Darryl for the one position with the firm.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
    Any movie entitled "Senseless," no matter what the connection to its plot (and whether it is intentionally foolish or not), had better at least be half way decent lest the critics use that title in their bylines. "Senseless? You Bet..." and "Senseless Lives Up To Its Name..." are just a few examples that might pop up. If lowbrow humor -- that includes scatological references -- and slapstick comedy aren't your idea of a good time at the movies, you might just have that same reaction. On the other hand, if you don't mind that and want to see another heir apparent for the type of roles mostly abandoned by the likes of Jim Carrey and others, then you might want to check out this release.

    That's due to the presence of Marlon Wayans ("The Sixth Man"), who is another graduate of the "Get 'em Ready for the Movies" TV show, "In Living Color." Not only is Marlon yet another sibling of Keenen Ivory Wayans (the show's creator and which makes me think that the Wayans parents, like those who sired all of those Baldwin brothers, are probably a talent agent's dream), but he's also another cast member of that show who's crossed over the great divide and onto the big screen (joining siblings Keenen and Damon, as well as Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, choreographer Rosie Perez, David Alan Grier and others).

    Like fellow alum Jim Carrey, Wayans has a distinct gift for physical comedy that proves to be this film's saving grace. Also, like Carrey, seemingly nothing can embarrass Marlon. Thus we're "treated" to moments of him flailing his body about, slobbering, and an extended sequence of him trying to alleviate a certain itch in his posterior. I must admit that some of the moments are mildly amusing, but all of them are definitely juvenile in nature. Whether you find them humorous depends on your tolerance for comedy stemming from bodily functions, as well as pratfall-type slapstick moments.

    The plot itself is simply a one-note joke regarding the main character's enhanced and then malfunctioning senses, all of which is used to feed Wayans' physical routine. While it does provide for a few funny moments, screenwriters Greg Erb and Craig Mazin (who both contributed to last year's "Rocket Man") apparently believed they could just give Wayans a little bit of material and then let him run with it.

    That's unfortunate since they do not fully realize the general plot idea and could -- and should -- have developed many more humorous moments stemming from the concept. In fact, some of the bigger laughs come from moments we've seen before. A scene where a woman finds Wayans' flinging of his "paralyzed" limbs around or against her as a turn-on was similarly done in an episode of the 1970's TV sitcom, "Three's Company" (yes, it's embarrassing to admit remembering it) and was actually much funnier.

    Still, Wayans pretty much keeps his routine from becoming too obnoxious and creates a compassionate enough character that one hopes he'll eventually succeed, and the film has the obligatory "I've learned my lesson now" moments that redeem him from his past indiscretions. The supporting cast is adequate and the performers serve their mostly stereotypical parts. David Spade (TV's "Saturday Night Live" and "Just Shoot Me") -- who always plays the same snide character that I usually can't stand -- actually perfectly fits the bill here as the snobbish, blueblood foil to Wayans' efforts.

    Rip Torn (from TV's fabulous "The Larry Sanders Show") also has the problem of essentially playing nearly identical characters no matter what the role (and that only change in intensity), but I happen to enjoy his performances. He is somewhat underused in this picture, however. Tamara Taylor gets to play the standard issue "serious" girlfriend, which only leaves Matthew Lilliard as the pierced punk rocker to liven things up whenever Wayans is missing.

    Director Penelope Spheeris ("Wayne's World," "Black Sheep") has essentially aimed this film at older teens and those in college. It will undoubtably please them but nearly no one else, and should have a better life once on video. While it contains nowhere near the fun or imaginative quality that made the original "Wayne's World" a favorite among critics and moviegoers alike, it may have one decent result.

    And that is, it might just be a huge stepping stone for Wayans who may inherit the role of "court jester" from a long line of talented cinematic clowns who have come before him. If you don't mind the one-joke plot that's boosted by some zany, but often crudely based physical comedy (and some obnoxious fisheye lense closeup camera work), this film might be for you. Otherwise, you might want to stay clear of it. We found it to be occasionally funny, but not nearly enough to recommend it. Thus, "Senseless" gets a 3.5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Language (possibly 1 use of "motherf*cker" and several "s" words, among others) and sexual situations give the film its R rating. The latter includes references to masturbation, some closeups of women's clothed bodies, a few homosexual references, and a few brief encounters. There's some male rear nudity that's played for laughs, but more of the film's attempts at humor come from scatological references. We're "treated" to scenes such as one where we get to hear a woman in a bathroom stall going to the bathroom and commenting on what she sees (and Darryl, with his enhanced senses, not only hears her farting, but also reacts to the smell). We also get to see Darryl scratching his clothed butt in several scenes (on a table, chair, and using his finger and a bristly brush) from the itching caused by the drug's side effects. While that's not a standard-issue drug, some parents may be concerned that kids will find that Darryl's success and happiness are directly linked to it, and then may miss the point that he essentially renounces it by the story's end. Since some teens may want to see this film, we suggest that you look through the content to determine whether it's appropriate for them, or for anyone else in your family.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Darryl repeatedly takes the experimental drug (an injection in the butt via a syringe) that makes him "feel" better (although it occasionally makes him feel bad). His roommate thinks he's a (regular) drug addict.
  • After Darryl finds Tim removing the liquor from their place, he jokingly tells him, "I'm gonna smoke a little crack...do you want to join me?"
  • People drink at a party.
  • People drink wine and champagne at a banquet.
  • Scott drinks a martini at a party and others also drink.
  • An announcer at a hockey game drinks from a flask.
  • Darryl and Janice have wine with dinner.
  • People drink beer at a basketball game and we see Darryl carrying two beers.
  • Scott pours all sort of liquors and other items into a bowl of "liquid sh*t" for the frat pledges to drink and Darryl drinks an entire glass of it.
  • People drink at a punk party and later at another party.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • As Darryl gives blood, we see some of it in a pint bag.
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, some jokes focus on scatological humor and we get to hear a woman in a bathroom stall going to the bathroom (and Darryl, with his enhanced senses, not only hears her farting, but also smells it). We also get to see Darryl scratching his butt (on a table, chair, and using his finger and a bristly brush) from the itching caused by the drug's side effects.
  • Later we see that Darryl has urinated down his pants leg.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Darryl lies to, and tries to avoid, the university's tuition department and the landlord, both of which want money from him.
  • Darryl uses the drug and its super-enhancing effects to make himself look better (in others' eyes) than he really is, and then decides to go against the doctor's implicit rules and takes a double dose of it.
  • Scott has both as he is not only a conceited snob, but he actively tries to keep Darryl from succeeding and constantly belittles or embarrasses him (telling him he's out of his league, making everyone at a frat party laugh at him, etc...)
  • When his mother asks Darryl the name of a Korean girl from the past, Darryl offhandedly says, "Fat Crack Ho."
  • Darryl makes some disparaging remarks (regarding looks and lack of talent, etc...) about a basketball player while unknowingly sitting next to him (during one of his "blind" moments).
  • A homeless man quickly beats up Darryl and steals his clothes (played for laughs).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • None.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Bush" (for pubic hair), "Suck," "Screw you," "Piss," "Loser" and "Jack ass."
  • Darryl takes the experimental drug that makes him a success and says that he's "on top of the world" and that it's the best thing that's ever happened to him.
  • Darryl repeatedly gives blood (until he passes out) and donates sperm to make money.
  • Tim's body is pierced all over (lip, nose, eyebrow, navel, and not seen: his genitals).
  • Tim gives the gesture for male masturbation.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's just a tiny bit of ominous music in a few scenes that are also accompanied by heavy heartbeat sounds.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • One use of what sounded like "motherf*cker" and at least 8 "s" words, 14 damns, 10 asses, 6 hells, 3 craps, and 5 uses of "Oh my God," and 3 uses each of "G-damn," "God" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Darryl goes to make a donation at the local sperm bank. A woman there asks if he's done this before and he says, "I've been doing it since I was twelve." He then asks for some "reading" materials and she hands him some porno magazines ("Beaver Hunt," "Bondage Cheerleaders"), but we don't see anything more than the covers. He later gives the woman four filled vials. Much later, and after taking the drug, he returns with the implied intent of filling a water cooler jug that he's carrying.
  • Darryl reminds Tim of his brief bisexual experimentation stage (a joke about watching a movie).
  • After Janice sees that Darryl has spilled some salad dressing near his crotch, she asks him, "Is that Hidden Valley, or are you just happy to see me?"
  • Sensing that Tim is a little "jumpy," Darryl asks him when he last had sex.
  • Darryl jokingly asks Tim, "I'm gonna smoke a little crack and masturbate a little bit."
  • A large breasted woman jiggles her chest at Darryl who bounces his head up and down as he watches.
  • Darryl's telescopic vision focuses on a woman's butt and we get to see a closeup of it. Darryl then acts like he's grabbed it and makes a licking motion with his tongue.
  • Two waiters at a banquet are portrayed as homosexuals and we hear lines like, "I just want to lick you up and down" and "I'll tie you to the bedpost and beat the sh*t out of you with my black leather whip." Darryl later asks them where they hid the butter and they give each other a fond look.
  • Darryl admits to Janice that "I don't want to get inside your panties," and that he wants to take it slow. Later, however, as they make out on the sofa, he climbs on top of her (both are clothed) and quickly climaxes (we hear his reaction).
  • Tim, who's been abstaining from sex, sees a porno magazine, grabs his clothed crotch, and makes his way toward the bathroom but is interrupted from doing anything else.
  • We briefly twice see Darryl's bare butt as he's giving himself an injection of the drug.
  • A woman comes over to Darryl's place to have sex with him. He doesn't want to, but she opens her shirt and we see her large breasts in a small bra. She tells him to touch them, and he tries, but instead whacks them with his hands (during one of his "touch" deprivation stages). She thinks he's into rough sex and gets excited. He then tries to put his arm around her but ends up "spanking" her with his uncontrollable arm. She then runs her hand down inside his pants, but realizes nothing's happening. He then hits himself in the crotch yelling, "Wake up, wake up!"
  • Darryl, who momentarily can't see, confuses Tyson for Janice and puts his hands on his chest.
  • After Darryl realizes that a man has/had a black wife he asks him, "Have you been dipping in the chocolate?"
  • After a homeless man steals his clothes, Darryl runs out onto the street holding just a trash can lid to cover his nudity. As he turns and runs up to people for help we see the side of his bare butt, and later we see a full glimpse.
  • SMOKING
  • Some background characters smoke.
  • Darryl smells that his younger brother has been smoking and takes a pack of cigarettes away from him.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Darryl is concerned about his mom's finances, and there are just a few moments where they mention his father's absence.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Although he later admits to taking the experimental drug (that helped him succeed -- ie, the easy way out) and knows that it was wrong, kids might get the wrong idea about "drugs" and the belief that they can improve one's life.
  • Donating blood (or sperm) to make money.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Darryl accidentally whacks the hockey coach on the back of the head with a hockey stick.
  • There's some standard hockey violence where players are smashed against walls and/or punched. In one scene, Darryl is pummeled by pucks as he tries out for the goalie position.
  • Darryl grabs Tim's key that just so happens to be attached to his pierced navel, and, not thinking, rips it from his body (no blood).
  • Darryl throws what appears to be a salt shaker and hits a woman on the head so that she won't block his line of sight to the stock page he's reading from across the room.
  • A man throws Darryl out onto a basketball court after Darryl unknowingly insults him.
  • Janice kicks Darryl in the crotch after she thinks he had sex with another woman.
  • Scott violently paddles Darryl's butt during a frat initiation practice, but Darryl can't feel a thing (due his "touch" deprivation stage).
  • Tyson elbows Darryl after Darryl blindly thought that Tyson was actually Janice.
  • We hear the quick sounds of a homeless man beating up Darryl and stealing his clothes (played for laughs).



  • Reviewed February 12, 1998

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