Friends & Lovers (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two thumbs down.


Scoop's notes in white


I think I can pinpoint this for you quite accurately.

Imagine that you tune in for your weekly installment of the sitcom "Friends". As the show begins, you notice something is wrong. There are the usual six friends in their late 20's or early 30's, three boys and three girls. They also pair up as lovers occasionally. Two of the six are brother and sister. But there are sex other people playing the roles. What happened? Did they fire the regular cast yet keep the show going? Nah! You just were watching a cable movie channel instead of the network station. This isn't "Friends", but "Friends & Lovers".

Should you keep watching it?

I don't know, but probably not.

Roger Ebert and some people at IMDb thought it an abomination which might portend the End of Days, but I thought it was just an innocuous waste of time with the following characteristics.

  • It is just like "Friends", except with a cast of unfamiliar characters that you have built no involvement with.
  • It has just as many typical formulaic sitcom laughs as a typical episode of "Friends", except spread out thinner - thirty minutes of gags spread over ninety minutes.
  • Although the characters are supposed to be in their 20's or 30's, they all have the sexual knowledge and banter of 15 year olds.
  • It is better than "Friends" in one way. Two of the three women show their boobies and the other, Claudia Schiffer, comes close.

Unfortunately, the film's recipe mixes plot and laughs in the wrong proportion, at least for my taste. A sitcom, after all, is just a soap opera wearing a mask of comedy. If you strip away the gags and summarize the plot to your friend, he would not be able to distinguish a sitcom from a soap opera. Because Friends & Lovers takes itself more seriously than a typical sitcom, it lets too much of the soap opera sneak through. The sentimentalized reconciliation between the estranged father and son, for example, is embarrassing to watch, and you may find yourself averting your eyes.

The plot:

The six friends spend a Christmas weekend at a ski cabin owned by one of their dads. Dad is also there. Stephen Baldwin plays an ignoramus desperate to get laid with one of the three girls. He has the best shot with Claudia Schiffer because she is extraordinarily dim. How dim is she, Johnny? So dim that, although she is German, she is fooled by a guy from New Jersey who is pretending to be German by using a fake accent. When they retire to the bedroom together, they continue to speak bad English together instead of German. Baldwin is miffed that the Jersey guy cut into his "dumb chick" action, so he takes off his pants and joins them in their bedroom. Jersey Guy takes him aside and tells him that he can have Schiffer in a short while, for sloppy seconds. He agrees.

That gives you an idea of the level of humor involved, as well as the realism and depth of the characterizations. The behavior of the other characters is equally implausible. The dad, for example, is a 50 year old man of apparently normal intelligence who simply throws a large metal can of food into a microwave to heat it up. Apart from the dubious humor involved, is that a believable scenario?

The screenwriter also plays a part in the movie. He came up with the perfect role for himself. He plays a guy with a really large penis, which is shown in detailed close up.

Why didn't I think of that? 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • full-screen format

  • no significant features

NUDITY REPORT

  • Alison Eastwood shows her breasts in a well-lit scene in which she flashes them, then strips for sex. There is also a look at the side of her hips and a very fleeting look at her crotch area in the sex scenes.
  • Suzanne Cryer shows one breast in a well-lit apres-sex scene.
 

Tuna's notes in yellow


Friends & Lovers (1999) is, I suppose, an ensemble romantic comedy. A group of 20-somethings, who have been friends forever, spend Christmas at a ski lodge owned by one of their fathers. The group includes the cabin owner's son who has never gotten along with his dad, a shy gay guy who is technically still a virgin, someone's pregnant sister, a testosterone- driven guy (Stephen Baldwin) and his bimbo date (Claudia Schiffer), and a bland Alison Eastwood as the only female member of the core group. Everyone gets laid except Mr. Testosterone , who ends up losing his blond bimbo to a really irritating mobster from Jersey (Robert Downey Jr.) who is masquerading as a German ski instructor.


The premise seems to be that women know everything about everything, while men can do nothing competently, and will do anything to get laid. Running gags include such innovative hilarity as the father being a total disaster in the kitchen. The premise probably accounts for the chick-flick score at IMDb (women score it 1.5 higher than men), but even with the lift from female voters the overall average score at IMDb is still only 4.0/10, which will give you some idea how effective the whole thing is.

I can't imagine how they could have done a worse job of making a film about attractive 20 somethings having sex.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one star. Ebert 0.5/4, Apollo 25/100, filmcritic.com 2.5/5

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $94,000. Total. In its first week, it grossed $33,000 on 53 screens - 600 bucks per screen per week, or about 30 bucks per showing.

 

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "This film is a D. Is it the worst film ever made, as some IMDb comments indicated? No. It's just a piece of light formulaic entertainment that doesn't work." Tuna says, "E-. Scoopy was rather kind in awarding a D. Technically, it is not the worst film ever made, so it can't be an F, but I can't imagine how they could have done a worse job of making a film about attractive 20-somethings having sex."

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