Not much of anything to ‘Guy Thing’

A GUY THING

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
January 17, 2003

1 stars

There are a few stereotypes which neither sex seems to mind perpetuating. Men are deathly afraid of marriage. A bachelor party isn’t complete without strippers. It’s better to take chances than settle for a middle-class life.

Each of these elements plays a component in the plot developments (such as they are) of the comedy “A Guy Thing,” but none of them are fleshed out in a manner that’s even vaguely interesting, much less plausible.

I’m wondering if the filmmakers cashed in any favors from the film’s likable cast, because there seems to be no other reason why Jason Lee, Julia Stiles and Selma Blair would be associated with this sophomoric project.

Lee portrays nervous Paul, who will, in one week, walk down the aisle with his fiancee, Karen (Blair). At his bachelor party, his best friend insists on hiring some “tiki girls,” even though Paul told him he didn’t want that kind of entertainment. His friend is the kind of man who jokes that Paul can expect three kinds of rings now that he’s doomed for marriage: an engagement ring, a wedding ring and … suffering. Get it?

Paul finds himself charmed by Becky (Stiles), a fledgling tiki girl with two left feet. Whether these dancers are actual strippers is left to the imagination, but it’s obvious they are there to titillate the men. They are to strippers what Julia Roberts was to prostitutes in “Pretty Woman.” They are mainstreamed.

The next morning, Paul and Becky wake up in bed together. Fearing his girlfriend will discover them, he throws Becky out of his apartment. He spends a good chunk of the film trying to hide his deception from his fiancee. Occasionally, he grapples with the moral implications of what he has done, but he seems more concerned with getting caught than on coming clean.

The movie asks us to sympathize with Paul, but he’s kind of a shady character, despite how desperately the writers want us to feel bad for him. Becky may have suffered a lapse of good judgment falling into bed so quickly with him, but she also assumed he was available. (At his bachelor party, Paul has his friend pretend to be the groom so the dancers will lavish their attention on his pal instead of him.) Regardless of whether the two had sex, he cheated on his fiancee, who turns out to be Becky’s cousin.

No one seems bothered about this “Jerry Springer” turn of events. Sadly, Becky doesn’t have enough sense to be insulted that Paul treats her like a hussy. She doesn’t get angry when he throws her out before she has had time to get fully dressed. And when he jokes about his being such a great catch, she actually concurs.

“You joke, but guys like you are hard to find,” she tells him. Not really. Ask any single woman and she’ll be able to rattle off at least one or two Pauls she’s dated before wising up. You can probably guess which woman Paul winds up with, but you’re not overly optimistic about the future of either one. Paul should be taking a break from dating rather than relying on a woman to complete his life.

Stiles is wasted in a role that requires little from her other than to look pretty and appear carefree. We want more from her than the film is willing to give.

“A Guy Thing” is written by Greg Glienna, who also penned “Meet the Parents.” Granted, that film wasn’t a groundbreaker either, but Robert De Niro was able to get laughs simply by the way he said Ben Stiller’s character’s last name: “Focker.” It’s much more plausible that De Niro was able to train his cat to use the toilet than it is to believe Karen’s dad would excuse Paul’s indiscretion with a pat on the shoulder and the reassurance, “We’re men. We’re hunters. It happens.”

It may be a guy thing to use genetic makeup as an excuse to roam, but it’s an adult thing to know when to resist temptation. And it’s a wise thing to avoid this lame excuse for a comedy.

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