Sunday, November 11, 2007


I find it slightly amusing that yesterday's entry, Naoyuki Tomomatsu's STACY, blended elements of horror, comedy, and romance to create a surreal, original experience, while today's movie--the 1993 release MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK--blends horror, comedy, and romance to create an 85-minute time-killer.

A quick perusal of the crew offers at least a glimmer of hope, with Sean S. Cunningham as producer (whose genre resume is somewhat shaky, but has at least given us a couple of hits), Mac Ahlberg as cinematographer (who's got the zombie classic RE-ANIMATOR under his belt), a screenplay by Dean Lorey (he wrote JASON GOES TO HELL the same year), and Bob Balaban as director (who brought us the quirky suburban black comedy PARENTS). Throw in a colorful supporting cast that includes Paul Dooley, Austin Pendleton, and Cloris Leachman--not to mention a brief appearance by TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE's Edwin Neal--and you should have at least a fairly interesting horror-comedy. Too bad the movie plays it far too safe to achieve either laughs or scares.

This saccharine teen comedy begins in well-tread territory with Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery), an unfortunately-named but lovable doofus who's pined for the pretty, popular Missy McCloud (Traci Lind) since the first grade. Johnny dreams of taking
Missy to the prom--as well as banging her in the gym in front of the entire student body, in one of the movie's feebler attempts at humor--but alas, Missy's already going with Buck, a personality-barren stock jock out of the Teen Movie Stereotype catalogue. Things get even worse for Johnny when he's shot trying to protect Missy in a convenience store hold-up, and get even worser when he returns from the grave as a zombie, eager to hold Missy to her deathbed promise to accompany him to the prom.

Here's where the movie starts to fall apart. Johnny's resurrection is treated with little more than a surprised scream by his parents; otherwise, it's just something new to make him an outcast by his classmates (apparently, this has happened before, so no one's really taken aback by it). The script tries to generate conflict as Johnny continues to think he's taking Missy to the prom, even though she's still going with Buck; you see, Johnny really, really wants to take Missy to the prom, a plot point repeated ad nauseum until we realize "take Missy to the prom" is just a euphemism for "get into Missy's pants." Johnny may not get the chance, though, as his body starts to deteriorate, a condition that'll only worsen unless he eats human flesh, and he's not ready to cross that particular line.

Zombie comedies aren't successful by being subtle. Their very premise requires a grand guignol sensibility to push the material over the top, to reach for new heights of outrageousness (David Gale giving head, anyone?). Unfortunately, Lorey's script never takes a chance to explore the ghoulishly comedic potential of the story (though I'm sure Disney's involvement had more to do with that than any shortsightedness on Lorey's part). We get a glimpse of what could've been with Johnny's mom (Mary Beth Hurt), a June Cleaver clone so supportive of her son's ailment that she brings home a toddler in case Johnny wants a snack. Also on hand is a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman (minus the Seymour here) scrambling to pay the rent as Chuck, a monosyllabic goon with a murderous bent. However, the teen comedy formula prevents any of these concepts from really taking off (this is of course before the days when semen consumption was standard procedure in teen comedies). Instead we're treated to snickering dream sequences where Johnny's dingle falls off during a nighttime romp with Missy, and "daring" double entendre as Missy implores, "Eat me, Johnny, eat me!" (The producers also feel the need to cram an anti-prejudice message into the plot, as various townsfolk come to hate Johnny just because he's dead.)

Since the film's first two acts are horribly mishandled, it's no surprise that third one is, too. It seems Johnny's condition is the result of some bureaucratic bungling in Heaven; so, to set things straight, Johnny gets sent back in time as a normal guy to foil the robbery (with a sugary-sweet touch for good measure), get his prom date with Missy, and presumably get into her pants afterward.

That MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK is utter dreck should be apparent the moment that Touchstone logo hits the screen (which might as well be accompanied by a crawl that says WARNING! PG-13 PABLUM AHEAD!). The only reason anyone would want to subject themselves to this is if they're . . . I dunno, say, watching a zombie movie a day for an entire year.

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