Watch it

1993, R, 102 min. Directed by Tom Flynn. Starring Peter Gallagher, Suzy Amis, John C. McGinley, Jon Tenny, Cynthia Stevenson, Lili Taylor, Tom Sizemore.

REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., May 21, 1993

Flynn's debut as writer-director perhaps should have been subtitled Men Who Fear Intimacy and Commitment, and the Women Who Don't Want to Resist Them, for his work emits a banal essence that is evocative of a Sally/Geraldo/Phil/Oprah Topic-of-the-Hour. Watch It cannot really be described as entertainment per se, but rather as an ambiguous dose of reality in its social commentary on late twentysomething, early thirtysomething single males -- the Buddy Club of Male Bonding -- and their relationships with women. A loose, episodic narrative begins with the arrival of John (Gallagher) to the large Chicago home of his cousin Michael (Tenny), with whom he has been estranged from since childhood. Michael also shares his house with two pals from his college days -- Rick (McGinley) and Danny (Sizemore), and immediately the trio plunges John into an ongoing, humorous, but sophomoric contest known as “Watch It,” where it's every-man-for-himself in an attempt to outwit the other with outrageous practical jokes. As the stakes in Watch It grow higher and higher with each prank pulled, the individual agendas in friendship and romance for each man become apparent. For Rick, it's more of a way to hang on to the safety and security of an immature, frat boy's lifestyle than to grow and open up to an adult relationship with a strong-willed, but somewhat vulnerable teacher (Stevenson). To Michael -- a slick, cool womanizer -- it's a method to manipulate his way out of achieving true intimacy, especially with a willowy veterinarian (Amis) that he has been stringing along for some time. And as for John, who still hasn't found what he's looking for in life, the game becomes a defense mechanism. He doesn't want to be pulled back into the “boys will be boys” vortex that his cousin and housemates can't see to crawl out of, but he is not completely sure that he wants to be burdened with full-fledged adult emotions -- particularly when he becomes involved in a love triangle with Michael and Anne, the veterinarian. The strength in this film lies with the performances, which are so ironically credible that the majority of the characters come across as vacuous, negative people from real life. But, this may not necessarily be a good selling point for the film, either, because individuals like these characters can be encountered on any given day of one's life, and I'm not sure that it's worth paying to see art imitate life this closely.

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Watch it, Tom Flynn, Peter Gallagher, Suzy Amis, John C. McGinley, Jon Tenny, Cynthia Stevenson, Lili Taylor, Tom Sizemore

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