A Guy Thing Movie Review
So goes the curious event that A Guy Thing -- a well-meaning but almost completely worthless trip through a minefield of infidelity, masculinity and self discovery -- is based upon.
The thing is, A Guy Thing's plot does not get any more believable as it progresses. It's powered by an increasingly hard to believe series of coincidences, so flagrantly employed that you might even start to believe that A Guy Thing is a clever parody of mindless romantic comedies. After finding Becky (Julia Stiles) in his bed and rushing her out of his apartment, Paul (Jason Lee) almost immediately bumps into her working a tollbooth. Then he's forced to confront her again at his engagement party, where Becky turns out to be the cousin of his fiancée Karen (Selma Blair). Becky's stalker cop ex-boyfriend spots her with this new guy and decides to beat the crap out of Paul on the street. A wild and unlikely description of a mugger actually turns up a suspect, who also drives the cab in the final scene. The priest who lives in Paul's building, who has seen this whole farce unfold before his eyes, ends up as the substitute official at the wedding. I could go on, but trying to cobble these chance occurrences as a story -- let alone an intelligent comment on genre films -- overlooks the fact that A Guy Thing just bulldozes along, stringing together incomprehensible events without purpose.
A Guy Thing floats the requisite clues that let us know that Karen might not be "the one" -- her motherly order of "seatbelts" strap Paul in physically and emotionally and Paul's car radio is always tuned to conversations of divorce on talk radio. Paul's brother fawns over Karen, giving the audience some idea of what the right man for her would be like. So you know it's only a matter of time before Paul realizes he should be with Becky, the fun-loving, job-jumping, Chinese-speaking cousin next door.
A Guy Thing places Paul among different (and not always appealing) examples of masculinity -- the pumped up aggressive cop, the dopey and lascivious best friend, the uptight and lonely brother, the alpha-male-future-father-in-law -- hoping he will choose one model of manhood and stick with it. Instead, he stumbles through the film totally boggled and without any concept of who he is and what he wants. Paul is such a schmuck that not only can you not understand what the free-spirited and beautiful Becky sees in him, but you have no interest in seeing him win out in the end. In one scene, we are forced to watch Paul throw himself into a dumpster on the demand of Becky's steroid-fueled psycho ex-boyfriend. Ugh. He is so confused and inactive it's a wonder that he was able to convince anyone to be with him, let alone have to choose from two beautiful and vibrant women.
Critics will invariably coo about how warm and funny Julia Stiles is, how this talented young actor is an asset to popular film. However, she has so little to work with in A Guy Thing that none of her talent is ever really on display. Her character has little quirks that are never explained, her character being given the depth of a wading pool.
In fact, most performances featured in A Guy Thing are developed through a series of declaratives, such as "I'm the uptight brother," "You're the crazy one," and "I am not stupid." Never mind that the behavior of the characters tells us otherwise.
Thomas Lennon delivers the best performance as Peter, the uber-repressed but obviously smitten brother of the groom. He's the only actor in A Guy Thing that pretends to remain involved with a scene when the camera is not pointing directly at him. The film's only moment of honest sentiment comes when Peter realizes something the audience has known for the length of the film, and comes through with a spontaneous and heartfelt a capella rendering of "Islands in the Stream."
At the point of Paul's crucial transformation he says, "I've been playing it safe. Everything I do is safe." A Guy Thing sticks so close to convention, and without any elegance or control, that the filmmakers could have only been thinking the same thing.
Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.
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