According to the lords of Hollywood, prom night is the most important night in a young man’s life. Not just his academic, or social, or even of his teen years. Goddammit, more important than his wedding night, the birth of his first child, the return of Christ, or neverending pasta bowl week at the Olive Garden. Prom IS ALL. Or so writer-director Brian Hecker would have you believe with his odious coming of age “comedy” Bart Got a Room. What starts off as a bland tedious romantic comedy fiercely descends into a shitfest of horrendous situational comedy like a teen starlet shedding her nice girl image by gangbanging herself pregnant and wet-vaccing her cooter clean during the Easter Seals telethon. If you aimed your fireworks display at a nursing home, you couldn’t have ended up with a more wretched finale. Not only does Hecker despoil an excellent cast, he manages to stomp flat any hope of a charming moment by making stupider and stupider plot twists. Hecker thinks he’s coming off like Neil Simon, but instead he’s about as witty as Simon the retarded bathtub dweller Mike Myers used to play on “SNL.” I wanted my money back, so I could spend it hiring Cambodian rebels to hunt down the filmmaker and cut him into shark bait. I just didn’t care for it.
Danny (Steven Kaplan) wants to find the perfect prom date. Not just wants: NEEDS. He’s already put money down on a tuxedo, a limo, obtained a hotel room, and tickets. Now he just needs a date. Everyone’s got a date, including Bart, who’s allegedly the biggest nerd, not just in the school but in the greater Metropolitan area. Danny’s best gal pal Camille (Alia Shawkat), a befreckled pudgy yenta-in-training, desperately wants to go with him. Instead he blows her off for an assortment of failed attempts at wooing, including the perky sophomore cheerleader he carpools with or the goddess of the Florida Retirement Circuit. Not even poor Debbie Yang, thrown in there because Jews crave Chinese, was up to par. No, Bart hems and haws and finally, begrudgingly, desperately relents and decides to go with Camille. Not because he finally has an epiphany and realizes he’s better off having a good time with a friend who loves him, but because there’s nobody else left.
Alas, Camille has a date! She’s going with another boy, which turns out to be Bart’s best friend Craig (Brandon Hardesty) — a senior discount Jonah Hill — for no apparent reason except to Hecker it is too moronic to come up with a more logical plot twist. At this point, the movie absolutely implodes under the density of Hecker’s inept screenplay. Danny’s not even that concerned about shucking his virginity, so much as making sure he gets a really good PROM PHOTO. That’s right. The whole point of going to prom is getting your fucking picture taken in front of remaindered party supply store paper draped with curtains and some sort of faux Doric column like the porn set for a remake of Spartaclit and a banner that reads “Remember the Night!” or “This Magic Moment” or any another bad ballad you can find scrolling up the screen during commercials on late night television. It’s not even the four hundred thousands pictures of teens in formal wear doing demure conic posturing to simulate just a hint of cleavage or the eleventy billion shots of everyone peeking out the top of a limo like they just got nominated for a Daytime Emmy. No, it’s that one single motherfucking picture that will be framed next to your graduation photo your mother curses and Windexes before company comes over. That’s the big moment at the heart of Hecker’s shitstorm.
Hecker takes a phenomenal cast and buries them under a ton of bad perms and Jewfro fright wigs, hurling them into the muck of his awful movie and expecting them to tread water in lead boots. Danny’s divorced parents are played by William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines, and their respective beaus are played by Jon Polito and Jennifer Tilly. The depths to which Hecker goes to waste these talents are astounding. I feel the worst for Alia Shawkat, who tries her goddamnedest to save this miserable flick. Hecker tried to hang his hopes on his lead, thinking he’d resemble a scrawnier Patrick Dempsey of Loverboy and Can’t Buy Me Love fame. Instead, he ended up with a teen infused with the hideously overwrought performance of Patrick Dempsey now. Hecker found the only kid in America with the soul of a thirtysomething bore.
Not simply content with boring his audience, Hecker challenges the crowd with a series of more preposterous bungles that advance like he filmed this on a dare. Macy, on a date with the horndog Tilly, finds out his son has no prom date. So what would you do America? You’d ask Tilly to be the kid’s date, right? She’s youthful, kind of a knockout, and surely you wouldn’t cast her just to use her in one scene where she has to flirt with William H. Macy looking like Don Johnson’s older housebound uncle? If your name is Brian Hecker you sure wouldn’t. No, you’d have Macy drive the strip, looking for a hooker. Not just any hooker, but a tranny who looks like she fell out of the trailer in Pink Flamingos. You’d pay her $50 to take your son to prom. And if you were Danny, you’d apparently take her. Because you’re not after a quick handjob with a meaty paw riddled with needle marks and gravy stains. No, sir, you’re all about the photo. And what would capture your magic high school memories better than getting your photo taken with RuPaul’s albino stand-in? Amazingly, the film manages to get even stupider than THIS. In order to explain the finale, I’d risk suffering an aneurysm. It involves both his parents and a fucking bar mitzvah. Because apparently, the orthodontists who funded the flick wanted to give people the most painful experience ever while still hitting as many hackneyed Jewish injokes as they could muster.
The worst part is I’m wasting all this rage on a film nobody will ever see. Godwilling and with my help. Bart Got a Room has a charming poster, a nerdy kid with his tux pants around his ankles next to Maebe from “Arrested Development” with Macy and Hines in picture frames on the back wall. It looks like it could be fun. Don’t be fooled. You’d be better off slitting your wrists with a Glamour Shot.
Brian Prisco lives in a pina down by the mer-port of Burbank, by way of the cheesesteak-laden arteries of Philadelphia. Any and all grumblings can be directed to priscogospel at hotmail dot com.