Bachelor Party

Bachelor PartySynopsis: 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.

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Bachelor Party 7.75

eyelights: Tom Hanks. the sophomoric humour.
eyesores: many of the performances. the weaker third act.

“Let’s have a bachelor party with chicks and guns and fire trucks and hookers and drugs and booze!”

It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when Tom Hanks was funny. Although every motion picture he makes these days is intended to further cement his reputation as a credible thespian and add to his growing treasure trove of awards, he started his career being nothing more than a congenial goofball. And while this led to lesser fare such as ‘The Man With One Red Shoe‘ and ‘Dragnet‘, it also landed him a few gems, such as ‘Bachelor Party’.

Released in 1984, the picture is set in the day prior to and the night that Rick (Hanks) has his bachelor party. After a tension-filled lunch with his fiancée’s parents, threats from a rival and promises to keep it clean, his carefree friends and his older brother take him to a posh hotel for an evening of decadence. But they will have to contend with hotel staff, interference from Debbie, her parents and the rival, as well as Rick’s conscience.

The picture was loosely based on Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. ‘Bachelor Party’ was actually inspired by producer Bob Israel’s own bachelor party. Israel, who would go on to producer ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective‘ is credited with the story, but Neal Israel and Pat Proft wrote the script; the pair would also write ‘Police Academy’ together and the latter went on to co-write the ‘The Naked Gun‘ and ‘Hot Shots!‘ films with Zucker/Zucker/Abraham.

It’s quite the comedy pedigree, and while no one would ever mistake ‘Bachelor Party’ as a masterpiece, it has its fair share of hilarious one-liners and gags. Its opening salvos showing Rick as a smart-alecy adult teenager are classic: his interactions with just about everyone, including his fiancée, are deliriously sophomoric; one would be hard-pressed to keep a straight face watching him boldly dare to lower expectations instead of playing along.

Frankly, I love that even though his day job is being school bus driver, the bus is his only means of transportation and that neither he nor Debbie care. Or that, forced to play tennis with Debbie’s parents, he purposely sabotages every serve, hitting homeruns with them. That, frowned upon, he plays into the caricature that his parents-in-law imagine him to be and dials it up, shocking them in the process. He’s sarcastic and ironic at once. And quick-witted.

Basically, he’s the embodiment of teen rebellion in an adult form and with adult intelligence. He’s actually clever, but he puts it to uses that are simply not typical for a man his age. And his defiance is pure escapism for those of us who feel pressured into societal propriety; this guy doesn’t care, and just lives his life as he sees fit. And yet he still keeps his moral compass in some ways, being entirely faithful to and caring of Debbie and his friends.

Tom Hanks is genius in the part; he’s so good that it feels as though the part was written with him in mind. He balances the wise-cracking goofball with a sensitive nature to make him quite endearing. Even though most of what he says and does is totally stupid, Hanks makes it seem natural and totally in character. Frankly, I’ve never seen him funnier. Warmer, yes. More relatable, certainly. More natural, absolutely. But funnier? I really don’t think so.

The rest of the cast isn’t nearly his equal, unfortunately, but they are very much in keeping with the genre and the era. And the type-casts: you have the repressed one waiting to break out, the good looking smoothie, the party animal, the light-headed one, the nerdy one, and the neurotic one. Collectively they work together quite well, but none of them are stellar by any means; aside from Michael Dudikoff (who plays the dim-wit) none of them did much else.

The female cast are very much their equal: they’re all a mix of personalities and archetypes: the sexy sweet  lead, the pretty cookie-cutter girlfriend, the disgruntled feminist, the repressed angry wife, the moronic rebel chick, and the uptight mom. The fact that they are somewhat a match is actually terrific because it strikes a balance, even if the picture is focused on Rick and his buddies. Too bad none of them are star material, even the lovely Tawny Kitaen.

The first hour of ‘Bachelor Party’ is actually quite good, but then the party finally begins (after a couple of false starts) and the filmmakers were clearly struggling just to keep it moving, with the gags centered mostly around the party and with little plot development from that point onward. But it’s entertaining, with a band showing up, as well as hookers, uninvited guests galore, a donkey, and the addition of violence courtesy of Rick’s rival, Cole.

By the end, the picture is grasping to come to a conclusion and it’s contrived and unsatisfying, leading into a police raid, a kidnapping and followed by a chase into a 36-screen cinema. It’s not great, but it only barely takes the shine off the first half of the film. By that point, we’ve laughed hard enough and often enough and had enough of a good time that one is tempted to start the picture right over from the beginning, to relive its better moments.

I’ve certainly played ‘Bachelor Party’ a lot. I first bought it on VHS for 1$, and for that reason only. I was so pleasantly surprised by it that I played that tape to death, often putting the film on late at night to relax after a long day, or even to fall asleep to. I just had to upgrade to DVD when I got the chance and might even consider blu-ray someday – if they special edition it. ‘Bachelor Party’ is no grand cinema, but its ridiculousness is a grand ol’ time.

Dates of viewings: May 29+30, 2015

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