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National Lampoon's Gold Diggers (March 23/05)

It's gotten to the point where it makes more sense to just expect mediocrity from the folks at National Lampoon; that way, at least, it'll come as a pleasant surprise if their name is ever attached to a movie that doesn't suck. Though it seemed as though they'd scraped the bottom of the barrel with the one-two punch of Van Wilder and Dorm Daze, the National Lampoon gang have actually managed to go even lower with Gold Diggers - a shockingly unfunny film that skirts the thin line between bland time-killer and utter disaster throughout.

Will Friedle and Chris Owen star as Calvin and Leonard, a duo of bumbling misfits who come up with a seemingly foolproof scheme that's sure to make them rich: they'll marry the heiresses to a vast condom fortune and wait for them to die (at which point they'll presumably bask in their newfound wealth). The only problem is that said heiresses (played by Renee Taylor and Louise Lasser) are actually broke, and are marrying Calvin and Leonard for the sole purpose of killing them (thus allowing them to collect on the insurance).

National Lampoon's Gold Diggers' features many, many attempts at humor, yet very few of them are actually funny. Writer/director Gary Preisler inundates the audience with obvious jokes (such as the sequence that finds Calvin and Leonard sniffing a bottle of chloroform to confirm that it is, in fact, odorless) and futile attempts at physical comedy, while encouraging his actors to give incredibly broad performances (something that's particularly true of Friedle, who goes over-the-top early and often). Taylor and Lasser do an admirable job of throwing themselves into their roles, though it's impossible not to feel sorry for the pair (Taylor especially, as she spends a good portion of the film's running time prancing around in one horrifyingly skimpy outfit after another).

With it's emphasis on puerility, there's no doubt that teenaged boys will get a kick out of Gold Diggers. But for those of us who still remember when the National Lampoon name actually meant something, it's impossible not to be a little bit disappointed by how terrible the film really is (the blow's been softened by years of mediocre output, but still).

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Gold Diggers in both PG-13 and unrated versions (this review applies to the latter), though it would seem the only difference between the two is about 30-seconds of nudity. Extra features are plentiful, with deleted scenes, outtakes, and "gold digging tips" among the many supplemental materials.
© David Nusair