tomcats (2001)

director: gregory poirier

jerry o'connell, jake busey, shannon elizabeth, jaime pressly

There’s a famous gag in an old Laurel and Hardy movie where Stan chases a pea with his fork around his plate and onto the table at a fancy dinner party, blithely destroying the room. If Tomcats, a new film starring Jerry O’Connell and Jake Busey, has any claim to fame, it’s that the old “wandering pea” gag has been updated with a diseased human testicle in a hospital ward, to predictably hilarious results.

Tomcats is funny enough, provided you assume that all men are testosterone-crazed chimps who drool on command, and women are pliant vixens, fiendish ball-busters, or both. It’s a strange little universe that, without the laughs, is the setting for most of Michael Douglas’ classic films of male, middle-aged paranoia (Falling Down, The Game, Disclosure). Tomcats is its twentysomething flipside, a laugh-a-minute world where sweet little librarians and their doddering grannies are really vicious dominatrixes, and blushing brides are voracious lesbians. Like I said: hi-larious.

O’Connell and Busey play hopeless Lotharios who make a bet with their other single buddies that the last man single collects a pool of lucratively invested cash. O’Connell loses everything he owns in one bad bet in Vegas, and finds himself conspiring to marry Busey -- a pick-up artists so crude and boorish that he could only exist in a movie like Tomcats -- off to the love of his life. The jokes are mostly updated stag party gags, and the action just this side of soft-core porn, directed with a flatness that makes hardcore films look artful. The romantic climax -- was there any doubt that the chimp would get the girl? -- actually seems obscene, especially after the loping, knuckle-dragging hilarity that comes before.