The title of this movie has never been used to describe Judge Kerry Birmingham.
It just got COOLER!
Lo, many years ago, there was a mysterious decade known to men as "The '80s," a mystical period for moviegoers in which cinemas were besieged with what the histories would come to call "T&A comedies." Rude, raunchy, and unapologetically lowbrow, this was the golden age of fart jokes and juvenile sexuality. Typified by Porky's and roughly 118 million more movies pretty much exactly like Porky's, the T&A comedy as a genre proliferated on the simple yet universal premise that men like to look at naked ladies.
Alas, with the advent of the marginally more sophisticated '90s, where the comedic potential of getting a donkey drunk or frat boys peeping on co-eds had apparently been exhausted, the T&A comedy more or less vanished (at least until American Pie put pie-boning into the cultural consciousness). But with the rise of the direct-to-video market, where consumer standards are—bless them—low and the ease and accessibility of digital video have made sure pretty much anyone can make a movie, the time of the T&A comedy has come again. For a generation of viewers who grew up on this stuff in all its campy glory, this is, indeed, pretty cool.
Facts of the Case
Nebbishy loser Walter (Eric Fagundes) has just graduated high school, and his parents have rewarded him with a very special present: a high-tech cell phone. The phone that can do almost anything gets even better when a freak accident renders it able to emit a frequency that allows Walter to control the minds of others. Walter quickly puts this to use on his parents, his platonic best friend Agatha (Julia Lehman), his older brother's girlfriend (Angela Dodson, The Joe Schmo Show), and the houseful of Internet Webcam girls conveniently located next door. Walter finds, however, that such a power quickly takes on a life of its own…as does his cell phone.
The good news is you don't need to have seen the original Pretty Cool to understand this movie. Everything you need to know about this movie can be inferred from the DVD cover: a shot of our hero, clueless Walter, with his pants down and surrounded by two attractive women, the whole tableau framed between a woman's legs. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case says more than the movie itself. It's the kind of thing we've seen on a thousand video covers before, and its familiarity isn't just crass marketing (okay, not solely crass marketing). Everything about this movie has been calculated to remind you of something else. The writer/director, Rolfe Kanefsky, admits as much on the commentary track, gleefully citing similarities to Zapped! and the fragility of his own plot. The whole movie is a vehicle for slapstick humor and adolescent leering; in other words, all the things that made this worn genre great to begin with.
Kanefsky knows a thing or two about exploitation flicks, having helmed some of the later, somehow less reputable Emmanuelle outings, and he applies that sensibility of cheap production values and even cheaper women here. Of course, Pretty Cool Too (oddly titled "Pretty Cool II Too: Pocket Girl" in the opening credits) doesn't have the trashy sheen of those movies, but instead indulges in a cornball anything goes tone appropriate to the proceedings. Our hero Walter, like all great sex comedy protagonists, Just Wants to Get Laid; while it's more Bruce Campbell than Joseph Campbell, his Sex Comedy Hero's Journey follows the same pattern as other movies since time immemorial (or possibly the late '70s). It doesn't spoil anything to say that Walter's cute, plucky, previously considered asexual best friend, Agatha, does not stay that way for long, and Walter's attempts to mind-control various slutty women into having sex with him don't go as planned (this is, perhaps, the only genre in which sexual coercion and manipulation is considered a legitimate comedic device, unless the Japanese have yet another sub-genre I'm unaware of). It's a foregone conclusion that Walter will eventually see the error of his ways and fall for the honest, reasonably attractive, vaguely Meg Ryan-esque girl next door, but along the way we'll get inappropriate erections, appropriate erections, orgasms, and flatulence (often simultaneously), breasts of various sizes and authenticity, and ultimately an important lesson. There's even "boing!" and "bdoom-bdoom!" sound effects for sudden boners and bouncing boobs.
Since the framework is more or less immutable in this sort of thing, it becomes an issue of how well Pretty Cool Too works within it. The hypnotic cell phone, which manifests itself in the form of a hot "virtual" girl named "Genie" (Brandi Williams), is actually a pretty good plot device in itself, playing upon a common adolescent male fantasy and updating it in a way that wouldn't have been possible in the genre's mid-'80s heyday. If anything, the filmmakers could have pushed the idea further than having joggers strip to their bras and beach babes use their own cell phones as vibrators. A lot of screen time is spent on "The Playpen," the chick cloister next door to Walter's house (whether it's a Webcast, a reality show, or TV pay-per-view is unclear), though there's little payoff for all of the set-up despite its prominence in a set piece where Walter is caught outside without his clothes on (another hallowed step in the Sex Comedy Hero's Journey). The acting ranges from subpar to adequate, with Fagundes just fine as the slack-jawed Walter and the rest of the cast filling out their roles or demi-cups as the plot demands (Robert Donovan, woefully underutilized as Walter's dad, steals every scene he's in). Everybody's there to take a pratfall or to show some skin or convulse while fart sound effects are played on the soundtrack.
Whatever complaints can be made about the movie, as a genre exercise, it works fine. As a coherent and complete movie, not so much, but there's a lot to be said about incoherence in a movie like this, and the audience for this is not searching for nuance in the orgasm-inducing cell phone movie. Pretty Cool Too isn't the best example of teen bawdiness you can put into your DVD player, but it hits the notes it needs to and works as a late-period adjunct to the T&A comedies from which it liberally, shamelessly borrows.
Picture and sound are reasonable for this sort of thing; the transfer from digital video still has some of that home movie quality that keeps it from having that "real" movie feel, but is otherwise decent enough (and non-anamorphic). There's a lot of extras, including Kanefsky and producer Esther Goodstein's commentary, which gleefully acknowledges the silliness of every aspect of the movie (though they should have turned down the movie's audio while recording their commentary). There's a music video for the song "Star Spangled Hammer" by Tattooed Millionaires and "Pretty Cool" by The Andersons, set to clips from both Pretty Cool movies. The "Inside the Playpen" featurette showcases much of the raw footage from the mostly improvised "Playpen" scenes. As is usually the case, the deleted and extended scenes were justifiably left out of the finished film. A trailer and a photo slideshow round out the disc's extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's some for whom the "Good for What It Is" argument won't do, and they're right: this could certainly be better. Kanefesky makes no bones about the slapdash nature of the production, and it shows in every stilted line reading, every plot hole, and every questionable green-screen effect. Even considering its no-budget origins, this could have been made better with a couple of rewrites and a goose to the budget. It doesn't quite live up to its own wacky premise, but there's always Pretty Cool Again!.
All anyone even considering watching this movie wants to know is this: is there nudity? The answer is yes. Yes, there is.
Pretty cool? Maybe not; "kinda okay," I guess, but that would make a less catchy title.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Rolfe Kanefsky and Producer Esther Goodstein
Review content copyright © 2007 Kerry Birmingham; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.