Sony // 1998 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // July 26th, 2007
Revenge never tasted so sweet.
Wild Things is an interesting character study about, um, well, I don't really remember, and not a lot of other people do either. Sure, it might have a plot that cleverly winds through your brain as if it were a smartly placed labyrinth, but the simple fact of the matter is that there's a relationship between the film's female stars that's remained the memorable point of the film since it was released a few years ago. In the attempt to move copies, an online retailer hypes the disc as a chance to "see Denise Richards and Neve Campbell make out in high-def!" So is it worth it?
Written by Stephen Peters (who loved the subject matter so much he wrote the third part of this trilogy for TV) and directed by John McNaughton (Mad Dog and Glory), Wild Things is set in Blue Bay, Florida, a clearly white collar, blueblood kind of town, where the high school even has a sailing club. Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon, The Outsiders) is a guidance counselor at the school. He is quite the popular and successful teacher too, and is generally regarded as best friend to the boys and beefcake to the girls, including Kelly Van Ryan (Richards, Starship Troopers). He also helps out the reclamation projects, including the troublemaking Suzie (Neve Campbell, Scream). One day, Kelly and a friend come over to Sam's to wash his car. One girl leaves while Kelly stays, and Kelly comes home to her mother Sandra (Theresa Russell, Black Widow) and tells her she's been raped by Sam.
Enter the judicial process, and the crucifixion of Sam, even while he proclaims his innocence. A corroborating tale from Suzie puts him in jail until the trial. At the trial, not only does Suzie recant her story, but tells the court about Kelly's pressure to lie. A mistrial is declared and Sam is free to go. But Sam still wants a pound of flesh, which he decides to get in the form of Sandra's abundant estate. When Sam starts acting suspiciously, the detective who investigated the case, a cop named Duquette (Kevin Bacon, Murder in the First), wants to get to the bottom of it.
So what exactly is so good about Wild Things? I mean, since everyone's forgotten about what a bad movie this is, let's talk about the makeout scenes for a second. Forgiving the fact that I'm far from Mr. Skin, the relationship between Campbell and Richards is kind of boring to me for a couple of reasons. The first is that, quite frankly, the bi-curious moments just aren't titillating. You know when you watch a love scene, and one of the participants just doesn't appear to be into it? That's Neve Campbell in this movie. Comparing this to the other notable and recent same sex interaction in mainstream Hollywood (Brokeback Mountain), you can at least sense a bit of chemistry between the male leads. And quite frankly, is Denise Richards really worth watching? Short of a pair of tweezers, what's really there that's worth staying around for?
Besides, I could at least respect this film if its sensationalism masked a semi-decent movie. But this thing sucks. The acting is OK; the characters are superficial and all of them are wholly unlikable. As for the story, while there are some mildly interesting twists and turns, the ending simply tries to be clever, and it's not. I understand and appreciate the whole "camp for camp's sake" in movies sometimes, but this thing is a car wreck that explodes four minutes into B- and C-name people showing their naughty bits for no particular reason, other than to say they did.
Technically speaking, the MPEG-4 encoded transfer in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen looks pretty good for a several years old film. There's quite a bit of detail to be had in the Florida everglades shots and everything looks all good. There were a couple of scenes that I found that distracted me from the film, both when Richards and Campbell share a cell phone, and in a later seen with a tight shot on Bacon, there seems to be instances where the background action seems to slow down. The foreground characters are unaffected by this. I rechecked the disc and the same thing happened. Is this something with the processing, or is this a stylistic choice? Someone let me know on this. The PCM soundtrack isn't too shabby, the recurring bass in the film's score comes through real nice, but the film's mix comes through a surround system sounding rather nice. And the disc has nary an extra, cutting away the McNaughton commentary, among other things.
HLA aside, the most enjoyable part of the movie far and away has got to be Bill Murray (Rushmore), who plays Lombardo's attorney. Of all the people who are playing each of their roles so seriously, he's clearly having fun as the shady shyster and doing what it is that he's supposed to do, which is bring some comic relief to the film.
Look, I'm as red blooded as the next guy, and I love it when girls kiss. But Hollywood always takes any sort of passion out of it and makes it not fun, and when you add that to a film that was not fun, not suspenseful and not sexy, then it becomes stupid. And that's what Wild Things is, rated or not, as this particular one is. If you liked the movie for "those" scenes, and you're reading this on a computer, then I'm sure Googling the film will get you the same results, so save your money.
The court renders it guilty with extreme prejudice...while not wearing pants! Bring in the next case.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original DVD Verdict Review
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Unrated Edition