Inarguably, the 1980s are, and probably will always remain, the best decade ever for teenage comedies — they came in with Fast Times at Ridgemont High and ended, suitably, with Heathers and Pump up the Volume, a 1990 film whose heart belonged in the 80s (“Jam me, jack me, push me, pull me, talk hard — *nostalgia tear*”). Sadly, aside from the occasional accidental gem, Pump Up the Volume also marked an end to that era. The Aughts have had Mean Girls and Superbad, but the landscape has otherwise been barren, while the 90s had only one certifiable, zeitgeistian hit: Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, an inexplicably great film that most of us assume was a satire on the vacuous pre-text messaging, mall-dwelling teenagers of the time.
But given Heckerling’s entire body of work (Fast Times aside, the success of which I attribute more to Cameron Crowe than to Heckerling’s hacky directing skills), maybe Clueless was more of an accidental hit — an aberration. Is it possible that we read more intelligence into the script than what actually existed? Could we have mistaken earnestness for irony? After all, it’s not as though Heckerling has had a history of biting satire: It certainly doesn’t exist in Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too, Johnny Dangerously, Loser or freakin’ Night at the Roxbury. Mayhaps we (or maybe it’s just me) have given entirely too much credit to Heckerling; either that, or — as a writer, in any respect — Clueless represents her one flash of brilliance, never apparently to be duplicated.
I mention this by way of introducing the review of I Could Never Be Your Woman, a film plagued by studio problems that nevertheless wound up exactly where it should be: In the straight-to-DVD bin, right next to Blonde Ambition and American Pie: The Naked Mile. It may sound like an overstatement given their collective works, but for Paul Rudd, Michelle Pfeiffer, and even Amy Heckerling, I Could Never Be Your Woman will likely stand as the biggest embarrassment of their respective careers, careers — by the by — which even include these asstastic gems: The Object of My Affection, Look Who’s Talking, Too, Tequila Sunrise, and Married to the Mob. I realize that Pfeiffer’s career is already on a downturn and that Rudd, surely, took this role out of some misguided obligation to Heckerling, but damn, it hurts to see good people make such huge, honking asses out of themselves. I understand that the film has suffered from innumerable release-date delays (there are references to the WB and UPN in the film), but the humor is more dated than even that: It’s as though it were a full-length sitcom that aired on Nickelodeon in 1997 — I kept expecting Topanga to show up or the cast to start belting out the “Breaker High” theme song. Indeed, the only element missing was a much-needed laugh track, so at least I would’ve known where the fucking jokes were meant to be.
Oh, it’s bad, people. It’s comedic ball-sweat dripped into a plate of week-old chili-fries. It’s a caged cinematic fart rattling a tin can on your bowels. It is to funny what a sports-arena lavatory is to clean. I Could Never Be Your Woman puts the suck in suck. The funniest joke (if you even want to call it that) in the entire movie comes when Rudd’s character shoots a grape into a woman’s ass crack, but even then, the execution of it is off. Stacey Dash — who played Cher’s best friend in Clueless — must have thought that she’d finally gotten another shot at glory after a decade of straight-to-DVD features when she landed a role alongside Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeifer, but as it turns out, Woman amazingly represents the nadir of even her career, a notch below Secrets of a Hollywood Nurse. But hey! The lighting in the film is spectacular!
The story, such as it is, involves Rosie (Pfeiffer), a divorced 45-year-old television writer and mother of a teenage daughter. She falls for a younger man, Adam (Paul Rudd), after he auditions for her television show and lands a part. And then, for some reason, there’s all sorts of nonexistent high-jinx involving him being a much younger man than her (nevermind that few people would blink an eye at the prospect of a guy like Rudd dating a gal like Pfeiffer — pretty people flock to pretty people, age notwithstanding), most of which centers on Rosie’s younger secretary, Jeannie (Sarah Alexander) attempting to sabotage their relationship by photoshopping Adam’s face into pictures with the show’s younger star, Brianna (Stacey Dash) and leaving them around for Rosie to find. Moreover, the age disparity between the two is fucking insignificant anyway because both characters act like motherfucking 12 year olds during the entire film (pillow fights, “seafood/C-food” jokes, etc.). There’s also a throwaway subplot (to go along with the throwaway major plot) about Rosie’s daughter, who starts menstruating and then gets a crush.
But it’s the details that make I Could Never Be Your Woman so shitsmeartastic. Take, for instance, the fact that Rosie’s ex-husband, played by Jon Lovitz, left her for a younger woman (in what fucking universe, people?). Or this: The show that Rosie works on is called, “You Go, Girl,” and later, when she’s fired by her boss (Fred Willard), her show is replaced by one called, “The Shizzle.” Or how about this: Rosie’s confidante is a chip-eating Mother Nature apparition played by Tracey Ullman, who tries to convince Rose to get plastic surgery. Or this: Pfeiffer’s character wears Iron Maiden T-Shirts (Eddie the Head probably tried to leap from the shirt to his death). Or that Rosie, when confronted by her daughter’s teacher (Wallace “Never Start a Land War in Asia” Shawn), blames her lower test scores on her period. Or this: Her daughter’s shtick is making up her own words to Alanis Morissette songs (“Isn’t it Moronic,” about President Bush). Of course, there’s also this: Henry Winkler plays himself, the victim of a prank call by Rosie’s daughter, whose witty joke is to utter, “Ayyyyy!” into the phone and hang up.
Not convinced? Well, how about this: Graham Norton is in it.
I don’t think I need to say anymore.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
I Could Never Be Your Woman / Dustin Rowles
Film | February 20, 2008 | Comments ()