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Case Number 09058

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Extreme Dating

Warner Bros. // 2004 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rankins (Retired) // April 14th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Michael Rankins suspects that "extreme" is just a code word for "sucky."

The Charge

Desperate hearts. Desperate measures.

Opening Statement

At least they didn't call this movie Extreme Entertainment. I'd sue them for false advertising. Extreme Indigestion would be more accurate.

Facts of the Case

Picture four young advertising executives—nebbishy Daniel (Devon Sawa of Extreme Ops, apparently cornering the market on "extreme" film roles), aggressive Lindsay (Amanda Detmer, Saving Silverman—though nothing could have saved this movie), lovelorn Troy (Andrew Keegan, one of the 10 Things I Hate About You is that you contributed to this bloodless effort), and playboy Packer (Ian Virgo, Black Hawk Down, which is the direction this flick is taking his career)—on a ski trip to a resort owned by a bombastic new client (Meat Loaf, relegated to yet another greasy spoon of a film here).

Picture a random accident striking this foursome with a not-so-bright idea for kick-starting romance: Pretend to kidnap Troy and the object of his affection (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, thinking this all sounds like a rejected story line from The Sopranos) in the hope that the stress of confinement and Stockholm syndrome might cause said object to fall head over heels for the Troymeister.

Picture a gang of bungling hooligans who take the kidnapping plot a little too seriously.

Picture a Judge falling asleep and drooling on himself, thanks to one of the least humorous comedies of the new millennium.

The Evidence

Where to begin? This movie fails so utterly on every count that it's difficult to know where to assign blame first. Does the fault lie with tyro screenwriter Jeff Schectman, whose abysmal script takes the promise of an intriguing premise—the "extreme dating" of the title—and flushes all hope within the first five minutes? Was the problem director Lorena David, whose leaden sense of timing drains all possible electricity out of this story, forcibly stretching what was at best an incidental subplot into the centerpiece of the film? Should we criticize the cast, perhaps the least charismatic assemblage of young movie actors (and I use that word "actors" in the most forgiving sense) ever cobbled together?

No, I blame myself for volunteering to review this monstrosity, when I could have, say, undergone a pre-frontal lobotomy or endured a stint in a Turkish prison this week instead.

Seriously…I searched in vain for things to praise about Extreme Dating, and came up empty. I possess a lively and broad-ranging sense of humor, yet I experienced not a single instance of mirth during this tedious, stillborn motion picture. This is the kind of comedy that believes a woman accidentally staining the seat of her skirt with copier toner is inherently funny. Or a man having to urinate while stuck in an elevator. Or an old woman speaking with brazen vulgarity about certain sexual activities favored by a former President of the United States. I can envision several ways that any of these situations might have been played so as to make them funny, but these ways did not occur to the people who made this movie. Instead, they lie fallow on the screen like the wastebasket detritus of the 1980-81 season of Saturday Night Live. And you all remember how agonizing that was.

The cast? Yikes. Devon Sawa reminded me of a less-talented Wil Wheaton, the Star Trek actor turned celebrity blogger. Amanda Detmer's voice reminded me of fingernails scraping chalkboard, only in three dimensions. Meagan Fay's female detective reminded me of a no-talent variety show impressionist channeling Frances McDormand in Fargo, sans pregnancy. Meat Loaf reminded me of a has-been rock star desperate for a paycheck. Everyone else reminded me of the precious minutes of life that this movie was leeching out of me, never to be reclaimed.

Who is the potential audience for this picture? I haven't a clue. People who like romantic comedies won't find either here. Viewers attracted by the R rating for "sexual content" will be certain they picked up the wrong disc when they find this flick as tame as a television sitcom, just with stronger language. Fans of any of the principals—if such fans there be, and I have my doubts—could surely observe their idols under better conditions elsewhere. An Internet celebrity porn site, perhaps.

To its credit, Warner Bros. takes a game stab at making Extreme Dating a direct-to-the-cutout-bin package worth investigating. There's not much that could be done with the film itself, and the dull, mushy transfer reflects the studio's disinterest in trying to polish overmuch a low-budget lump of coal. The soundtrack is marginally better than the picture, offering sporadic implementation of the surrounds and consistently crisp dialogue—not that hearing an hour and a half of witless prattle can be described as much of a benefit. But overall, this is as decent a presentation as this movie deserves.

Director Lorena David, producer Mark Roberts, and costar Amanda Detmer parked themselves in front of a microphone for an afternoon to record a surprisingly informative audio commentary. Listening to people who made a bad film chatting about said film without acknowledging just how bad it is seems a trifle disingenuous, but anyone remotely interested in how junk like Extreme Dating reaches the shelf of your local Wal-Mart can hear the skinny directly from the horses' mouths here.

A series of mercifully brief featurettes, given the umbrella title "Extreme Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes of Extreme Dating," provide even more background of the electronic press kit variety. There's also a blooper reel—which, in a twist of tragic irony, isn't any more laugh-inducing than the actual film—and a trailer, which might serve to warn people away from this train wreck before it's too late.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As mentioned above, there's a clever idea buried deep beneath the truckload of movie mud that is Extreme Dating. The concept of throwing couples together under bizarre circumstances to see whether chemistry ignites between them might actually make a fun movie. That fun movie, however, is still waiting to be made.

Closing Statement

Extreme Dating reminded me of one of those cheesy sex comedies from the late '70s and early '80s that used to play in heavy rotation during weekend nights on pay cable…only with all of the sex and all of the comedy thrown away, and the cheese left to molder and desiccate by itself. The only thing "extreme" about this movie is my distaste for it, and everyone associated with it. When even Meat Loaf can't bring a spark of life to a bad movie, call the undertaker and bury it. Quickly.

The Verdict

So guilty, I wanted to sentence to retroactive celibacy the parents of the people who made it. Failing that, I'll sentence the film itself to endless loop play in the aforementioned Turkish prison. Please, for the love of sanity, let us be adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 69
Audio: 72
Extras: 80
Acting: 55
Story: 52
Judgment: 53

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Lorena David, Producer Mark Roberts, and Actress Amanda Detmer
• Featurette Gallery: "Extreme Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes of Extreme Dating"
• Blooper Reel
• Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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