Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Awful and Unfunny: "Chasers" (1994)

It is always easy to judge a comedy. A good one makes you laugh, a bad one does not. This is a bad comedy.

Too cute William McNamara plays Navy dude Eddie Devane who is celebrating his impending discharge. He has prepaid for a Porsche with money he has been stealing from the Navy by selling things on the black market with the help of his neurotic friend Howard (Crispin Glover). In one of those unbelievable plot developments, Eddie is sent to help hard as a rock Rock Reilly (Tom Berenger) retrieve a dangerous prisoner named Tony Johnson and bring him back to base to be flown out to his permanent incarceration in California. The duo must drive through the Carolinas to do this, resulting in madcap Southern stereotypes.

Well, the bickering couple get to the Marine prison, and lo and behold, he is a she! Boing! And she is hot TonI (Erika Eleniak), not TonY! Wah-wah-wah! I hope the trip back goes as smoothly as every other trip Rock has gone on!

Toni soon makes her true self known, escaping from a preplanned truck stop with the help of a friend. She is recaptured. She sabotages Rock's van by stuffing tampons in the gas tank, and the trio is stranded in the middle of nowhere. The three fall into an abandoned mine shaft, and Toni gets out. She plans to escape, but gets a conscience and returns to help the boys out. As Eddie's life falls apart (Howard steals his Porsche), he gets drunk and sleeps with Toni, who naturally escapes again. She is recaptured again, but she has melted the hearts of these two guys with her sob story. She committed assault because she could not get an emergency leave to see her dying brother. Eddie and Rock deliver Toni to the proper authorities, but both have had life altering experiences (and an extended fist fight), and they come up with a goofy plan to spring Toni so she and Eddie can live happily ever after.

Dennis Hopper could not stage a comedic scene to save his life. He has no idea how to direct physical comedy. The tampons in the gas tank scene is awkward and obvious. The truck stop escape scene has Toni in a bad wig associating with Eddie and Rock, who have no earthly idea who she is! She looks the exact same, she is not Lon Chaney! While Hopper is having technical problems, the real fault here lies with the screenwriters (one of whom is from my hometown of Minot). All the characters here are stupid. All of them. The Navy and Marines have some weird inter-military rivalry (my dad was in the Air Force but we never got into fisticuffs with Army brats), the Carolinians are of the "Deliverance" variety, the women are all sexual objects, and the men are bitter drunks and wackos.

McNamara is baby faced in a part obviously inspired by all of Tom Cruise's roles. Tom Berenger sounds like Nick Nolte in "48HRS," and his change in character at the end is forced and unbelievable. Eleniak plays Toni as sympathetic, but I kept asking myself why she was set on escaping all the time. Sure, no one wants to serve time in prison, but I thought that reason was secondary to some big climactic confession that never comes about. Hopper populates this nightmare with tons of character actors in bit and cameo parts. Watch for Marilu Henner and actual Oscar nominees try to add a wackiness to the film that just is not there. Hopper's own cameo, with a fake nose that makes him look like Karl Malden, is as funny as a rectal exam.

"Chasers" can recall "The Last Detail," mirroring the basic plot but nothing more. This film lurches from scene to scene, never giving the audience anyone to like. Even Eleniak's topless scene is anticlimactic (so to speak), offering us the same thing we (or, at least, I) have seen in the pages of Playboy.

A bad comedy contains no laughs, and I literally did not laugh once. Do not pursue "Chasers." (*) out of five stars.