Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Bachelor Party (1984)
Studio Line: 20th Century Fox - Shocking, Shameless, Sinful, Wicked. And the party hasn't even started.

This outrageously funny look at one man's final moments of bachelorhood stars Tom Hanks as Rick, reluctant recipient of a bachelor bash given by a group of friends who view partying as their full-time religion. Rick's worried fiancée, Debbie (Tawny Kitaen), dresses up in disguise and crashes the party to spy on her future husband. To complicate the night further, Debbie's father hires her ex-boyfriend to win back his daughter. It turns out to be an evening the soon-to-be bride and groom will never forget.

Director: Neal Israel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tawny Kitaen, Adrian Zmed, George Grizzard, Barbara Stuart, Robert Prescott
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Digital 4.0; English Monaural, French Monaural; subtitles English, Spanish; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 22 chapters; rated R; 105 min.; $22.98; street date 6/5/01.
Supplements: Behind-the-Scenes Interviews With Cast and Crew; Trailer.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/B-/D+

Something one has to see to believe: a movie for which Tom Hanks and Adrian Zmed received equal billing. Unfathomable? Today, sure, but back in 1984, Hanks was a pretty unproven talent. He’d co-starred during two seasons of the funny but not-too-popular Bosom Buddies before he scored a decent theatrical hit with 1984’s Splash.

Bachelor Party made it to screens only a few months after the release of Splash, so Hanks’ newfound fame hadn’t really had time to sink in yet. As such, we see the names “Hanks” and “Zmed” touted alongside each other. Hey, when BP went into production, Zmed probably was the bigger name; at least he’d co-starred on TJ Hooker, a moderately successful show.

In any case, Bachelor Party was the flick that started to solidify Hanks’ prominence as a screen star. While it didn’t do phenomenal business, for a cheesy comedy in the Porky’s/Animal House vein, it produced good money and made it clear that Hanks was a star on the rise. Granted, he’d quickly squander that good fortune with clunkers like Volunteers and The Money Pit before his poor choices culminated in the disaster that was his “serious” flick, 1986’s Every Time We Say Goodbye.

1988’s Big brought Hanks back to the power position - and his first Oscar nomination - but he quickly returned to dreck; from 1989’s Turner and Hooch through 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano and The Bonfire of the Vanities, it’s hard to imagine a worse run. However, once he reteamed with Big director Penny Marshall for A League of their Own in 1992, he’s been consistently golden. Sleepless In Seattle brought in the bucks during 1993, and that year’s Philadelphia nailed Hanks his first Best Actor Oscar.

After that, he’s remained on the top of the heap. 1994’s Forrest Gump brought Hanks a second consecutive Oscar, and his résumé since then has been an almost non-stop list of hits: 1995’s Apollo 13 and Toy Story, 1998’s Saving Private Ryan and You’ve Got Mail, 1999’s The Green Mile and Toy Story 2, and 2000’s Cast Away. The only poor performer during this span was 1996’s That Thing You Do!, which generated only $25 million at the box office. Nonetheless, that film - Hanks’ first feature release as a director - maintains a nice following today and has established itself as a fine flick, so despite the fact it never found a wide audience, I refuse to call it a flop.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m very fond of that movie, which is what makes it so painful to observe the success of Bachelor Party. The 1984 film took in about $38 million, so even before we adjust the money for inflation, it’s clear that it did much better than TTYD!. However, popularity isn’t always - or even usually - a sign of quality, something that BP proved in spades.

The plot of Bachelor Party barely exists. At the start of the film, wild and crazy guy Rick Gassko (Hanks) tells his band of life-long buddies that he’s finally going to take the plunge and get married. As his send-off, they promise him the bachelor party to end all parties, a soirée that becomes complicated by a number of factors. First, his fiancée Debbie (Tawny Kitaen) makes Rick promise to control himself and not bang any hookers; Rick reluctantly agrees, but as the evening unfolds, it becomes more and more difficult for him to keep his word.

In addition, Debbie’s rich and snooty parents loathe Rick, and they do all they can to prevent the union from taking place. Key to these elements is the involvement of preppie scumbag Cole (Robert Prescott), a former boyfriend of Debbie’s and a man much more to the liking of her parents. He still wants Debbie and will stop at nothing to get her. As such, he acts as the proverbial fly in the ointment throughout the film; his attempts to sabotage Rick’s plans crop up frequently, though we know he’ll never succeed.

Even without Cole’s machinations, the party will encounter a huge variety of obstacles and mishaps just because… well, because this was a wacky Eighties comedy. Only in this kind of movie could a group as disparate as Rick’s friends actually pal around with each other. Stan (William Tepper) is Rick’s wife-oppressed doctor brother, while Jay (Zmed) is his handsome, smooth photographer buddy. We also find crude low-life Rudy (Barry Diamond), nerdy ticket scalper Gary (Gary Grossman), sweetly dopey Ryko (Michael Dudikoff) and depressed, wacked-out druggie Brad (Bradley Bancroft).

All of these guys have been friends since childhood, which I suppose can partially explain why they fit together so poorly; masculine loyalty may have maintained the bond even though the boys grew up quite differently. Still, I felt that this rowdy bunch made sense only within the cinematic context; in real-life, it’d be hard to find such a close-knit group of friends who have so little in common.

However, since no one ever said that Bachelor Party would offer a documentary-style look at the American male, I won’t slam it for some of its unrealistic tendencies. On the other hand, I will criticize it for being cheesy and unfunny. For one, BP has to be one of the most dated films ever committed to celluloid. From the fashions to the music to the sets, everything about it screams “Eighties”, and these elements have not aged well over the last 17 years.

Of course, a look through many good movies will find aspects that belong strongly to their eras, so that’s not necessarily a flaw. In the case of BP, though, it became a drawback because the film tried to use many Eighties elements to make it appear hip. Since these points now look hilariously lame, the attempt falters and just lends the movie an air of forced coolness.

Many films use the “snobs against the slobs” motif to decent comedic success; after all, that theme encapsulates a lot of the humor found in movies like Animal House and Caddyshack. As such, I won’t complain about that aspect of the plot, but a problem stems from the characters we’re supposed to like. Hanks has built his career on charming, average Joe roles, and on the surface, Rick seems to fall into that category. He’s just a regular guy who likes to hang out with the fellas - Debbie’s parents hate him just because he’s not a rich snob, right?

Nope. While the film might like for us to believe that their disdain comes from simple class issues, it quickly becomes clear that Rick’s really an obnoxious person. He comes across as a loud-mouthed, self-centered boor who has little room for anything that’s not overtly wild and fun. He shows absolutely no attempts to make Debbie’s parents like him, and that’s why he lacks charm or sympathy. If Rick tried to win over her folks and failed because of their close-minded attitudes, I’d feel for him, but as it stands, he actually seems to go out of his way to irritate them.

As such, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to Rick, and I disliked the portrayal of Cole as it seemed engineered solely to make Rick more sympathetic. At first, Cole actually comes across as somewhat genuine, and we don’t really know why he lost Debbie to Rick; sure, he looks a little too smug, but he still appears to genuinely care for her.

However, the movie couldn’t be content to have Cole act as a devil’s advocate in which he subtly tried to win back Debbie. He could have simply pointed out Rick’s many shortcomings and created a more viable threat, but the part becomes cartoonish to make sure that we firmly endorse Rick. As demonstrated during Meet the Parents, romantic competitors don’t have to be one-dimensional villains, but in the case of BP, I guess Cole had to be made horrid so Rick could become the lesser of two evils.

Debbie still could do better elsewhere, though you’d be hard pressed to think that when you see the supporting characters. They’re all little more than comedic window-dressing; the roles are not fleshed out in the least and they exist just to add some wackiness. Most egregious of the bunch in Diamond’s Rudy, a persona who seems like a bald-faced attempt to rip-off the legacy of John Belushi. Diamond plays him with an over-the-top crudeness that follows the stereotypical notion of Belushi but fails to communicate the real thing’s charm and skill. This is second-rate Belushi, but not John; it’s so bad that I can’t credit Diamond with more than being second-rate Jim.

BP clearly took Animal House as its role model since it blatantly stole a number of that film’s gags. In one scene, Diamond shoves down candy bars in a bit that echoes AH”s cafeteria piece, and we also get a dead mule in a different part of the movie. Unfortunately, all this pilfering does is remind us how much funnier AH was.

Does BP have any redeeming qualities? Sexy Monique Gabrielle provides some brief full-frontal nudity in her scene, though that clip actually made me wish for a fullframe transfer of BP; if I remember the videotape correctly, you can see more of her lovely body in the fullscreen edition of the movie.

I also was happy to see Wendie Jo Sperber again. She worked along with Hanks on Bosom Buddies and enjoyed modest success in a number of films such as the Back to the Future trilogy. I always loved Wendie Jo; even though she appeared in a lot of trash - Stewardess School, Moving Violations, Bachelor Party - she offered a lot of spark and charm to her roles. That doesn’t happen here, unfortunately, but I was still pleased to see her.

Otherwise, no, Bachelor Party has no redeeming qualities. The humor is all forced, tacky and unfunny, and the characters lack any charm or sympathetic qualities. The movie’s a total mess that left me totally cold. I liked the flick when I was 17, but I also liked Lionel Richie when I was 17. Opinions change, and any affection I once reserved for Bachelor Party has vanished now that I can see what an abysmal movie it really is.

The DVD:

Bachelor Party appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the movie often provided a quite positive picture, a fairly heavy variety of concerns muted my enthusiasm about the image.

For the most part, sharpness looked quite solid. The majority of the film came across as nicely crisp and distinct, with fine accuracy on many occasions. However, some wider did look rather fuzzy. For example, the tennis game that involved Rick and Debbie against her parents seemed awfully soft and poorly-defined. Minor moiré effects cropped up via some clothes - they loved those striped patterns in the Eighties! - but jagged edges caused no concerns.

Colors seemed nicely bright and vivid. The film featured a pretty bright palette that kept with the “candy store” clothing styles seen in the Eighties, and the DVD replicated these hues well. Most of the different colors came from the clothes worn by the participants, and these demonstrated strongly bold and accurate tones. Black levels appeared slightly pale but they were generally acceptably deep. Shadow detail also suffered from mild muddiness, but low-light sequences appeared decently clear and visible.

Print flaws brought about the worst aspects of the picture. Although many scenes seemed clean, quite a few examples of grit, speckles, and nicks showed up throughout the film. Grain could also become rather heavy at times; again, that tennis game demonstrated some serious concerns in this area. I didn’t think the defects were heavy enough to make the movie unwatchable, but they did lower what otherwise might have been a “B+” picture to a “B-“.

On the DVD of Bachelor Party, we find both the film’s original monaural soundtrack and a new Dolby 4.0 remix. For the purposes of this review, I only screened the latter. Although it wasn’t a revelation and it contained a few problems, as a whole the 4.0 track provided a fairly satisfying experience considering the age of the material.

The soundfield itself seemed very heavily oriented toward the forward channels, and even within the spectrum, it remained generally subdued. Musical elements offered the greatest breadth across the front, as the cheesy synth score showed pretty solid stereo separation at all times. Effects were less consistent, but they managed to display fairly positive ambience, especially during louder sequences like the party. The surrounds featured very little activity. Some modest reinforcement of the music and atmosphere popped up from the rear, but these were minor aspects of the track; the forward domain really dominated the mix.

Audio quality appeared dated but decent. Speech came across as modestly thin and flat, and some looped dialogue appeared poorly integrated, but as a whole, the lines were clear and intelligible without any edginess or other major concerns. Effects seemed similarly bland and lifeless, but they didn’t show any distortion and they represented themselves adequately. The score worked best of the bunch. While the music lacked great dynamic range, the highs were distinct enough to be satisfactory, while bass response could actually sound surprisingly deep; the lows kicked in some nice depth at times. Ultimately, this was a fairly bland but workable soundtrack.

Bachelor Party doesn’t add a slew of extras, but it includes enough to avoid “bare bones” status. In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, we find some featurettes produced to promote the flick. Three of these - “Behind the Scenes”, “An American Tradition”, and “While the Men Play” - stand on their own, while another three clips show up within the confines of “Tom Hanks Interviews”. The first three segments last between 95 seconds and 180 seconds for a total of seven minutes and 20 seconds of footage. These pieces combine lots of film clips plus brief interview snippets with cast and crew and a few shots from the set. All are fairly dull and exist mostly to tout the flick; although we learn the immediate inspiration for the movie, these otherwise lack much information.

The Hanks clips run between 15 seconds and 90 seconds for a total of two minutes and 35 seconds of material. These follow the same format as the prior featurettes except that they focus upon Hanks’ comments. They also suffer from too much repetition considering their length; some of the remarks were also seen in the three-minute featurette, and the final Hanks clip largely duplicates snippets found in the 90 second one. These are worth a look for fans but they added little to the experience.

Note that although the DVD’s case mentions the presence of TV spots, none of these made the cut. Unless I’m a total moron, there aren’t any TV ads on this disc.

Not that those would have made this package more palatable. As it stands, Bachelor Party was a total dud of a movie. Other than some brief nudity, the movie has little to offer. It’s a dated and unfunny flick that presented almost nothing entertaining or clever. The DVD offers flawed but generally good picture and sound but lacks substantial extras. Unless you’re dying for a fix of early Tom Hanks, Bachelor Party is a DVD to leave on the shelves.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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