Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adam Bernstein's "It's Pat"



I will never doubt the American movie going public again. Once in a lifetime, a film comes along that has been universally reviled by every known human being on the planet. Yes, before "Battlefield Earth," Hollywood gave us "It's Pat."

Pat (Julia Sweeney) was a popular recurring character on "Saturday Night Live." The one joke skits had various cast members and guest hosts trying to trap the androgynous Pat into declaring whether it was a man or a woman. Now imagine that exact same joke and those brief sketches expanded to a mercifully short seventy eight minute film.

In the film, Pat has problems keeping a job. It is fired from it's postal route because it was opening other people's mail. During a brief stint with the gas company, Pat meets Chris (David Foley), another androgynous being. The two fall in love and get engaged. Pat also gets new neighbors in the form of Kyle (Charles Rocket) and Stacy (Julie Hayden). Kyle slowly falls in love with Pat, not knowing Pat's gender, and soon becomes obsessed.

Pat's karaoke performance at it's engagement party is put on the television show "America's Creepiest People," and Pat gets a one shot performance with the rock group Ween (whatever happened to them?). Unable to handle the pressure of getting married to someone who is a legend in their own mind, Chris calls off the engagement. A heart broken Pat stumbles onto a radio talk show run by its neighbor Kathy (Kathy Griffin, at her most, er, least unlikable) and becomes the show's new host. Chris tries to make amends with the thick headed Pat as Kyle decides to make his move and find out once and for all if Pat is a man or a woman.

I sat in stunned silence for the entire seventy eight minutes. I was stunned because I knew the movie had a horrible reputation, but not this horrible. I did not laugh once, but my suicidal thoughts did recede a bit when Kathy Najimy (whatever happened to her?) came on, playing a jittery retail clerk in two scenes. Other than that, nothing.

So much blame can be placed on so many people here. I thought Julia Sweeney's Pat was kind of sweet on the television sketches. Here, I kept wishing someone would kill her. I am trying to recall a more annoying film character, and I cannot come up with one; Sweeney is even worse than Kate Capshaw in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Sweeney's Pat looks and acts too much like a man, and Foley's Chris looks and acts too much like a woman, which takes all the fun and comedy out of the androgyny storyline. Foley is usually a reliable laugh, but he is completely lost here. Charles Rocket's obsessive Kyle should have been a riot, but the film is chopped instead of edited, and all the laughs seem to have been removed. Comedians Tim Meadows and Phil LaMarr have small supporting roles, and just prove that they were funnier on television sketch shows as well. Even poor Camille Paglia is dragged in to spoof herself, and does so badly.

Director Adam Bernstein's idea of a funny camera angle is to get way too close to Sweeney's face, and Mark Mothersbaugh's score absolutely sucks, sounding like the canned music CD that college film students buy to make their senior projects sound more professional. The entire joke about Pat was that we would never know what it is. Dragging me along for seventy eight minutes with the same material I thought was funny almost twenty years ago depressed me. There is good reason this film bombed, and I am now a believer.

"It's Pat" is so bad it will knock the wind out of you. (*) out of five stars.