Bottom's Up (2006) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexuality, nudity, drug use, and language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Jason Mewes, Paris Hilton, Brian Hallisay, David Keith, Jon Abrahams, Phil Morris, Kevin Smith, Tim Thomerson, Nicholle Thom
Director: Erik MacArthur
Screenplay: Nick Ballo, Erik MacArthur
Review published September 13, 2006
Some of you are probably skeptical about whether or not critics can be fair when reviewing a film starring Paris Hilton (House of Wax, Pledge This!), as there definitely is a feeling of overexposure and backlash toward celebrities that hog the headlines, especially ones whose best cinematic work is found on an infamous sex tape. For the purposes of this review, I decided to put my own personal prejudices aside (as much as I can anyway), and pretend I know nothing about Paris Hilton or Jason Mewes (Clerks II), treating this film like any other that I might happen to see on a daily basis with no-name stars. The trouble with this approach is that neither of these two amateurs-turned-actors were cast because of their talent, as they only possess one trait that merits their involvement in the film: their marketable names.
Still, I enjoy Mewes in the Kevin Smith films well enough, and I don't particularly despise (or admire) Paris Hilton, despite her enigmatic popularity, so I think whatever prejudices I have going in aren't really strong enough to have me chomping at the bit to devour it with a nasty review -- I wanted to come away liking this movie. Unfortunately, try as I might to be fair, it ended up being an atrocious film anyway, with terrible acting by the two uncharismatic leads, hyperbolized Hollywood stereotypes (especially of gay men in general), and a storyline that is about as vapid as it is inconsequential.
Mewes stars as Owen, a Minnesotan bartender who travels out to California to compete in a flashy bartender competition he feels sure will raise the $10,000 needed to help out his father's struggling business. His father doesn't want to spend too much on the trip out, so to minimize costs, Owen must stay with his flamboyantly gay uncle Earl (Keith, Daredevil), who is still tying in vain to stay in the closet. Owen ends up losing the competition he felt sure to win, but feels he can't go back home empty-handed, so he tells the folks back home he won, while he sticks around hoping to find a way to earn enough cash quickly. Through a near-accident that put him in the news as a stalker, Owen ends up getting involved in the lives of an future-star actor named Hayden Field (Hallisay) and his hot girlfriend Lisa Mancini (Hilton). He struggles to find the money, but he may have found the love of his life in the surprisingly thoughtful and caring Lisa.
The film starts off interesting with a colorful animated title sequence that represents the best part of the movie. The animation recurs throughout the film at various intervals, mostly to supplant stunts and effects that would have probably been too pricy for this independent movie to handle, or which writer-director Erik MacArthur hadn't the talent to know how to shoot properly. After this we have a surprise unaccredited role for Mewes' best friend in the movie business, Kevin Smith,. At this point, one might think this film might actually be a pleasant surprise, but not really. The very first conversation involved people putting rabbits into their asses, a joke that isn't as witty as it is outrageously vulgar enough to seem amusing. The only thing I found remotely amusing was the celebrity sex tape subplot that turns a no-name into a superstar, mirroring Paris Hilton's rise to household name.
Quite possible the worst part of this very poor movie happens to be the one thing that will likely attract potential viewers -- the casting of Hilton and Mewes. It is apparent from their "acting" that neither would-be thespian is destined for a long career in the movie business, with both probably only getting cast as long as their names can grace the promotional material and still generate interest from whatever fans they might have at the time. After seeing his performance in this film, as well as in the nearly equally bad RSVP, I think Mewes should give up any aspirations to play anything other than Jay, or variations of it, from the Kevin Smith films. His lack of screen presence is all too evident throughout, as he recites his lines as if he were still in rehearsals, completely disengaged with the content of the dialogue he delivers, memorizing the words without any emphasis on emoting while he does so. Hilton fares little better, although she at least does make an attempt to show she has skills, even though she never succeeds. She may be attractive (to some people), but whatever beauty one might attribute to her ends once she is given anything to say, as her lack of energy, awareness, or passion shows that she probably doesn't know how to be anything other than Paris Hilton, alluringly unapproachable rich bitch. The only way her career will last is if she never speaks.
As bad as these performances are, it is evident from the roles given to more seasoned actors that this movie would have been pretty bad despite them. David Keith is a good actor, but his role here as a flaming gay Hollywoodite is abysmally offensive, although Keith actually makes the character surprisingly sympathetic despite the stereotypes (maybe because we just feel sorry for David Keith himself). Hallisay looks like he could have appeal in the right role, but not this one, as his character is so underwritten as to leave the actor that plays him with nothing to do but smile and look handsome. Jon Abrahams (Prime) and Tim Thomerson (Shoot or Be Shot) barely manage to be a blip on the radar -- if there are any roles that could have been given to actors without any real talent, it is theirs.
One final annoyance that merits mentioning: the overt product placements. Having the film interrupted by a 30-second commercial every few minutes would probably have been less obvious.
I'm not exactly sure why the film is called Bottom's Up, except perhaps as some sort of tie-in to the fact that Owen is a bartender, an angle that is mostly forgotten throughout the film. After watching it, I thought it might perhaps refer to the fact that this turd of a film reeks so bad, it could only have come from up somebody's bottom. Considering how quickly this film dies after it begins, perhaps Belly Up would have been more appropriate.
©2006 Vince Leo