Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // November 20th, 2009
A rowdy and raunchy party you won't want to miss!
I've got this stupid little rule when it comes to movies: I want them to know something about their subject matter. Take a movie like Rounders, for example: it's not a perfect film, but it's reasonably entertaining and actually seems to know something about the game of poker (something about flopping the nut straight and splashing the pot and twisting Oreos...I'M ALL IN!). I don't require tremendous insight -- though some would be nice -- and I don't even need to learn something new. I just like to feel that a movie has some idea what it's talking about.
This brings me to the 2009 "comedy" American Virgin, a movie that's solely about sex but doesn't know a thing about it. Actually, let me rephrase that: it's not that American Virgin doesn't know anything about sex, it's that it doesn't know anything about people. It's obsessed with sex, but in a way that's beyond juvenile; the characters are all Madonnas and Whores. There are two kinds of women in American Virgin: chaste prisses making abstinence pledges and sloppy nymphomaniacs who flash their breasts at the drop of a hat, have casual orgies and never leave the house without a giant sex toy. These, it would seem, are the only two possible attitudes about sex in the movie's universe, meaning it's off-putting and flawed at a fundamental level. That it's shoddily made and almost entirely unfunny only adds fuel to that garbage fire.
Jenna Dewan (Step Up) stars as Priscilla, a buttoned-up prude who heads off to college on an "abstinence scholarship," because those are things that there are in life. Much to her surprise on arriving, her roommate is a big, drunk slut (Brianne Davis, Jarhead, channeling Joey Lauren Adams) who sleeps with as many people as possible and packs a giant vibrator. They're total opposites! I think we're supposed to side with slutty roommate Naz and believe that Priscilla should lighten up, and I guess we do but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that Naz is awful and that her lifestyle is dangerous and sad. And that's funny! At any rate, they go to a party where the crew of "Chicks Go Crazy" (because they can't legally say "Girls Gone Wild") is taping, led by Joe Francis stand-in Ed Curtzman (Rob Schneider, Big Stan), who is sleazy and awful. After Naz convinces Priscilla to get drunk (that's how you teach someone to lighten up!), she winds up flashing her stuff for a "Chicks" video. Talk about a mistake! Now she might lose her abstinence scholarship, even though she didn't have sex with anyone and was wearing a giant moose head she flashed, totally obscuring her identity. She's just got to get that tape back! That means a Road Trip-style journey chasing down the "Chicks" bus with Priscilla, Naz and two generic guys, one of whom starts out with all the charm of a date rapist but ends the movie as the romantic lead. Because that is what makes sense!
The director of American Virgin is Clare Kilner, which surprises me for two reasons: 1) She's a woman, and ought not to be at all comfortable with the portrayal of women (human women, anyway) in the film and 2) she's made two movies in the past, How to Deal and The Wedding Date, that were by no means good but far from incompetent. This one is dead from the very beginning, and Kilner wrongheadedly tries to liven things up with unnecessary style -- the movie is in a constant state of zoom. I can't really think of a style that would be appropriate for the material, which sticks a collection of unlikable characters (being played by bland actors with a wild variety of styles that don't gel at all) and puts them in unfunny situations.
And there's the big problem. I know I've complained about the single-minded focus on sex, but that's not because the very topic offends me. I could forgive a lot of the film's tastelessness if it had been funny, but it really isn't. It's not even the jokes that are tasteless; they're actually pretty tame. It's the movie's entire worldview that's tasteless, and attitude is a much harder thing to correct than humor. At least American Pie, which was similarly sex-obsessed, had the decency to be funny and to offer the small insight that maybe sex isn't everything. American Virgin can do no such thing.
To be fair, I think I did chuckle a few times. I can only remember one instance, where a character tries to stop Priscilla from going out and having random sex by telling her that "Maid in Manhattan is coming on in a few minutes!" Adjust your standards accordingly.
American Virgin arrives on DVD courtesy of Echo Bridge, and it's a pretty unremarkable disc. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is bright and colors are find for the most part, though black levels are shallow and the picture tends to be soft in a number of sequences. The 2.0 audio soundtrack is often muddled and can be hard to hear; I had to turn my system up louder than usual just to get it to a comfortable level. There are no subtitles or extra features.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R