A GUY THING
***1/2 (out of 5)
January 17, 2003
Jason Lee as PAUL
Julia Stiles as BECKY
Selma Blair as KAREN
James Brolin as KEN
Lochlyn Munro as RAY
Shawn Hatosy as JIM
Directed by: Chris Koch
BY KEVIN CARR
In the wake of the twentysomething comedy “Just Married,” another preter-nuptual film hits the theatres. This time round, “A Guy Thing” finds the characters before they get married, and the nuttiness that can happen in the preparation for that.
Paul (Jason Lee) is a young man who leads a safe life. He’s got a safe fiancée Karen (Selma Blair), a safe job with Karen’s father Ken (James Brolin) and a safe lifestyle. During his bachelor party, he tries to keep a low profile in order to be faithful to Karen. However, when the tiki girls emerge, he ends up flirting with one of them (Julia Stiles).
The next morning, Paul finds himself in bed with the tiki girl. In a panic, he rushes her out of his apartment moments before Karen shows up. The next couple days find him racing around, trying to cover up his indiscretion. He almost has it licked until he discovers that the tiki girl is actually Karen’s cousin Becky. Things get more and more tense for Paul as he struggles with Becky to keep the secret. Of course, it doesn’t help that Becky has an insanely jealous ex-boyfriend named Ray (Lochlyn Munro), who hired a private eye to take pictures of the two the night they ended up in bed.
Paul and Becky embark on a series of misadventures in order to steal the incriminating negatives from Ray’s apartment. Later, Paul is sucked into an internal police scandal as he works with Internal Affairs to bust Ray. As Paul gets the taste of a life with a little more danger, he and Becky start to have feelings for each other, which only complicates the wedding plans.
While “A Guy Thing” is replete with overused marital jokes and plot points, there are some excellent humor spots that make you laugh out loud. Able to balance a sweet romance with edgy humor, this film works much better than many of its predecessors like the odious “The Sweetest Thing.” Still, like many comedies, it is the cast that keeps the movie together.
Jason Lee, who got his start in Kevin Smith’s films playing slacker characters like Brodie (“Mallrats”) and Banky (“Chasing Amy”), tries his hand at playing a more reserved, conservative guy. The only problem is that you don’t quite realize this right away. By the looks of his apartment, clothes and hairstyle, it’s as if he walked right out of a Kevin Smith movie. It takes about 20 minutes to convince yourself that he’s not Brodie or Banky (or any of the other off-center characters he’s played in films like “Enemy of the State” and “Big Trouble”).
Julie Stiles is surprisingly very appropriate for “A Guy Thing.” She carries herself with a Sandra Bullock-esque cuteness that actually works for a change in her films. (It is amazing how many people I have met who can’t stand Stiles as an actress. You’d never know by how much Hollywood gushes over her.) In fact, this is the first time I didn’t find myself irritated with her by the movie’s half-way point.
One of the brightest spots in the film is the ever-adorable Selma Blair, who shows up in so many films yet never has had her starring moment. Blair could easily be the next Parker Posey with her biting wit, fearless delivery and down-to-earth nature. (It is notable that she is the only lead that didn’t get any personal assistants in the film. In contrast, Julia Stiles had three.) Why won’t someone give this girl a starring vehicle?
A great secondary performance is by Thomas Lennon, better known for his year on MTV’s “The State” and now the current Snickers ad campaign. Lennon plays Peter, Paul’s uptight brother, who has not-so-secretly been lusting after Karen all these years. Sure, this opens the door for the ultimate deus ex machina, but it’s forgivable with Lennon’s dry wit delivery.
Of course, one actor to watch in awe is James Brolin, who looks like he has aged twenty years in the past four. I guess that’s what being married to Barbra Streisand can do to you.
“A Guy Thing” gets off to a rocky start as you try to rationalize Lee’s place in the plot, but it soon has enough surprises and funny moments to keep you watching to the end.
And speaking of the end – don’t worry, I’m not going to give anything away – it has one of the most uniquely conceived wedding scenes imaginable. Each step along the way is a potential pitfall into the dark depths of cliche, but the film manages to tap-dance around these and deliver a funny, original ending to the film while staying true to our Hollywood conditioning.