Tomcats (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This movie was despised by nearly every critic who saw it. Roger Ebert rated it no stars, a score which he rarely uses.

Now I'm not here to tell you that this is funnier than Blazing Saddles or wittier than Love and Death, but it is not without some comic moments. I think the critics hated it for three reasons:

1. It can be interpreted as misogynistic, and at best it shows how young men treat women as a necessary evil in their lives, bringing them paranoia, jealousy, lifeless marriages, the death of youthful joy, and the onset of unwanted commitments, all as the price of a little occasional sex. I doubt if this played well with the female critics.

2. The humor is juvenile, gross, sophomoric, jejune, and often downright dumb. It is the kind of movie that you might like, but you wouldn't admit it unless you are in high school. Most people who want to be seen as serious critics can't admit to liking this kind of crap unless they think it was written by Truffaut or John Sayles.

3. The structure of the movie is really screwed up. It sets up a basic premise, then introduces all sorts of unnecessary side tracks that have nothing to do with the original set-up, and lead you mindlessly away from the basic plotline for no apparent purpose except cheap gags.

All those things are true, and no female critic, in fact no female, is likely to appreciate it very much unless they realize that the film is not actually satirizing women, but the attitudes of young men toward women. This is a difficult line to walk, just as difficult as it is to make fun of the beliefs of racists. If you portray people as racists see them, in order to make fun of racists, more often than not people will accuse you of being racist by portraying those people in a degrading manner. The same is true if you substitute sexist for racist in the equation. It takes a subtle movie to portray racist or sexist attitudes without crossing sloppily over the line, and this is not a subtle movie. 


Jerry O'Connell's butt is seen in and after a spanking scene.

No female nudity. One (prosthetic) breast is seen in a comical breast-feeding scene

Despite all those flaws, I laughed several times. To tell ya the truth, they came up with some pretty good gross-out gags.

Here's the premise: some young guys, seeing one of their friends be the first to marry, vow never to get married, and they argue over which of them really mean it, and which of them are wusses who will cave in. To settle the argument, they make a bet in which they each place $1000 in a high-yield investment, and the last guy to get married will collect the whole pot. It works like a tontine, except substituting the perceived figurative death of marriage for literal death.

Jump forward several years, and only two of them are left. One of them gets into trouble with some gambling debts (caused by wanting to impress a woman with his high roller status, of course), and his only hope to pay back the mob is to get the other guy married so he can collect the now substantial kitty.

Unfortunately, the other guy is the ultimate schmuck, who is unmarriageable in two ways. First, he is too shallow to want to be with a woman for any reason other than empty sex. Second, he is such a pig that no sane woman would marry him. He runs over his female golf partners with a golf cart, and doesn't even notice. Nor does he care when somebody points it out to him.

So the indebted guy conceives a plan to pay half of the kitty to a woman who will marry the schmucky guy. He finds the perfect woman, a gorgeous cop who once gave the schmucky guy her cherry on the beach, after which he abandoned her with a roll of quarters, and told her to hitchhike home. This lady will do it not only for the money, but also to degrade and humiliate the schmuck. 

As the critics noted, some of the humor didn't work. In an almost irrelevant sidebar, the "nice" guy has a date with a sadistic librarian who chains him up, then calls in her ancient granny for an S&M threesome. This was just downright silly, as was a scene in a sperm bank when the nice guy ended up turning in about a quart of semen, prompting high-fives from the staff.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, and a full screen version

  • no meaningful features

But some of the humor was clever. 

  • The cop and her partner parody those talky, sensitive cop shows when they discuss her love life while they clean a house of several violent, heavily-armed drug dealers.

  • In another completely unrelated sidebar, the schmucky guy is diagnosed with a cancerous testicle. The doctor (Winchester from M.A.S.H.) tells him that they'll have to go in through his stomach and remove the testicle from behind - no, just kidding. Then when the surgeon removes the testicle the right way, the schmucky guy asks his friend to retrieve it for him. The friend drops the jar in the lab, the testicle gets kicked around a bit, and ends up rolling toward the cafeteria, and ... I think you can write the rest.  OK, it was dumb, and gross, and juvenile. I admit it. The critics were right. It was also pretty damned funny.

As you might guess, it is a young guy movie. Guys under 18 rate it a solid 6.2 at IMDb. In contrast, their moms (women over 30) rate it an execrable 2.5. Frankly, dads didn't much go for it either, with the oldest male demographic group at 3.9. So if you are a young guy, rent it, you'll like it, but watch it with your friends, and don't even think about telling mom and dad what you are watching. And, if I were you, I'd completely rule out watching it with mom as a family bonding thing, even if she's pretty hip. Trust me on this one.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one star. Ebert 0/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4, Apollo 41/100

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 16% positive overall, 20% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.9/10, Apollo users a similar 50/100. 
  • With their dollars ... a disappointment. the studio obviously had some hopes for it, since they released it on 2600 screens. These hopes proved to be misplaced. Five weeks later, it had disappeared completely, with only $13 million domestic gross  to show for it. the budget was only $11 million, so the overall financial performance wasn't all that bad.
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, this film is a C-. Not a good movie, but I think the critics confused being juvenile with being unfunny. The film is sophomoric and poorly structured, and some of the cheap-shot humor doesn't work at all. But some of it does. And there are plenty of sophomoric guys who will enjoy it.

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