Games People Play Movie Review

A reality TV show (of sorts) for those who don't watch reality TV but would still prefer to feel above it all, Games People Play bills itself as the pilot episode of "America's most uninhibited game show" but seems to have pretensions of being a film that people would pay money to see. Please don't.

The filmmaker, James Ronald Whitney, doubles as the host for this game show, which picks a half-dozen contestants (three women, three men) from the hundreds of hopefuls who answer an ad for "completely uninhibited, attractive" actors who want the chance to win a $10,000 prize. (As far as I can tell, this is all on the up and up -- it's a real game show, with real prizes, not a mockumentary.) The selection process is a serious grind, with contestants made to go up and tell their most painful memories in detail to the group, act out an erotic little playlet, and do everything possible to show how uninhibited they are. Even though the film tosses around the word "uninhibited" as though the filmmakers were earning a commission on how many times they could use it, none of the contestants who are chosen establish any sort of rapport with the camera, and no amount of getting naked (and there's a lot of it) or crying about their tortured childhoods (a suspicious amount of this, as all six conveniently have a horrific story to tell) makes up for that fact.

The game itself is nothing too interesting. Over the course of 72 hours, the six players go through a number of games in order to earn points and win that $10,000. At this point, Games should at least be able to provide some base thrills, as it has the advantage many reality shows don't; namely: nudity and cuss words. In "Pee for Points," the men have to pass a drug test and since craft services fed them all poppy seed bagels that morning, they have to get strangers to give them clean urine - a surprising number do. "Naked Trio" has the players pairing off into boy-girl teams and trying to entice strangers back to their hotel room for a game of "Naked Trio," which turns out to have nothing to do with sex, just the three of them singing a song. For no good reason besides having 90-odd minutes to fill, these games are dragged out to interminable lengths and scored with smarmy, jokey songs, killing concepts that could have been semi-amusing as a three-minute bit, and showcasing ultimately not a fearless new brand of extreme reality TV but simply a filmmaker who doesn't know how to put one of these shows together.

Games People Play tries to redeem itself with a twist ending that may come as a surprise to some but will hardly redeem anything that has preceded it. The film is never quite sure how far it wants to go: is this a spoof of reality shows or just another doomed pilot? It doesn't matter in the end, because there's nothing on screen that deserves much attention, regardless of what the intention was. If Games is a pilot episode (and supposedly they've already shot or are shooting a Hollywood-set version), then it's doomed, by virtue of its lack of drama and copious nudity, to late-night rotation on some high-digit, bargain-basement cable channel. If a satire on how far people will go for a small amount of TV exposure and a minuscule cash prize, Games doesn't work, because that same point is made every week on NBC when some model/actress/whatever in a halter top and bike shorts chokes down cow intestines on Fear Factor.

Aka Games People Play: New York.

This ain't Monopoly.

Comments

Games People Play Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: NR, 2004

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