Pretty Cool (2001) / Comedy-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, nudity and language
Running time: 92 min.

Cast: Will Burke, Gerard Karsenty, Amy Brassette, Cecilia Berqvist, Alexis Thorpe, Summer Altice, Cindy Campbell, Robert Donovan, Holly Sampson
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky
Screenplay: Rolfe Kanefsky

Review published July 29, 2007

Pretty Cool is a comedy-fantasy that pays much homage to the teen sex comedy craze of the 1980s, with constant references to Tom Cruise in Risky Business and a plot lifted right out of the Scott Baio flick, Zapped!. It's the brainchild of B-Movie writer-director Rolfe Zanesky, who had previously made quite a career in softcore sex comedies and schlock horror fit for late night cable such as Sex Files: Alien Erotica and There's Nothing Out There. While there are plenty of topless women to be found in Pretty Cool, and loads of sexual innuendo, at its most basic level, this is the sort of innocuous gag-filled sex romp that many who grew up in the 1980s would regularly feast on, from Revenge of the Nerds to Private School, full of young geeks just out to get laid and spy on all the hot babes of their school in the locker room.

The film starts off with high school senior Howard Duckell (Burke, "Jimmy Kimmel Live"), just on the verge of graduation, finding out that he will have to attend summer school. Unable to muster the mental stamina to endure even more school, Howard decides to sneak into the principal's office to change his grades on the computer, but through a mishap, he ends up crossing signals with a group of scientists sending data on telekinesis and the like over the internet, thus gaining powers that allow him to read minds and force others to do his bidding just by thinking it.

Howard immediately uses his powers to screw around with his bratty sister (Brassette, "Cedric the Entertainer Presents"), and getting it on with her snotty friends who normally wouldn't give him the time of day. Meanwhile, he develops a thing for his new neighbor, Tiffany (Thorpe, Pledge This!), but is determined to win her over without resorting to his newfound powers.

Needless to say, how much you enjoy Pretty Cool will be directly related to how much you enjoy teen sex comedies. By comparison, it's not as good as Risky Business or Fast Times at Ridgemont High, probably because it lacks even a hint of seriousness about it, but it's not as bad as teen sex staples like H.O.T.S. and Hot Dog the Movie. However, so long as you can keep an open mind as to its derivativeness and relatively low budget, it delivers the nudity, crude humor, and sophomoric antics you'd expect, and a few belly-laughs that you probably are not.

Much of the humor is of the "boy is trying to innocently rouse a friend, but someone walks in thinking they are doing something sexual" variety, but even these potentially tired moments provide some good humor, thanks in large part to casting a group of no-name actors who seem to excel at physical humor and broad slapstick very well. It's fun to watch Howard and his best friend, Chuck (Karsenty, Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle Pie), get into slap fights, while Howard's sister, played with great energy by Amy Brassette, steals most of the scenes she is in, particularly when she exchanges minds with Tiffany's cat, who happens to be in heat. This is the first feature film for many of the cast, so it's to Zanesky's credit that he pulls out such lively performances all around.

There are tons of references to Tom Cruise, who happens to be Howard's idol, so much so that he likes people to actually call him "Tom". Given the rampant rumors about Tom's perceived "secret life", it's funnier today to hear about what a "babe-magnet" Tom Cruise is than it probably was in 2001, but these dated aspects only enhance the film's appeal. While there's hardly a joke in the film that doesn't lift an idea out of somewhere else, there is a freshness in the approach and a skillfulness in the acting that keeps the tone buoyant and amusing.

Kanefsky aims too low and borrows too much for his film to be considered truly good, but it's also more fun than a cheesy film of this caliber should ever have the right to be. Pretty Cool should hit the spot for lovers of even the most vapid of the 1980s sex romps, even if crossover appeal is nil.

-- Followed by a mostly unrelated sequel, Pretty Cool Too (2007).

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo