1998 - PG-13 - 93 Mins.
|Director: Penelope Spheeris
|Producer: Cary Granat, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein
|Written By: Greg Erb and Craig Mazin
|Starring: Marlon Wayans, David Spade, Rip Torn, Matthew Lillard
|Review by: Joe Rickey
A 1998 comedy directed by Penelope Spheeris (‘Wayne’s World’), ‘Senseless’ stars Marlon Wayans, David Spade, Rip Torn and Matthew Lillard in a story of a collegian (Wayans) who is frantically seeking a job at a top-flight brokerage firm. He currently has four jobs as a way to pay for his education and hopes that the prospective employer would get him away from such financial straits.
His biggest problem lies in his competition: a wealthy and overly snarky fellow classmate (David Spade). During one of his numerous attempts to generate cash flow, he signs up to be a guinea pig in the trial run of a sense-enhancing drug. Complications arise when the heightened senses that the drug causes go awry with our character’s world, leading to much in the way of physical and/or bodily humor as he tries to deal with his senses and attain the much desired employment.
‘Senseless’ had the potential to be a sharp and witty lark of a comedy with the type of high-concept premise that, in the right hands, could become something at least akin to the ‘Nutty Professor’ series of films (more the first than the second one); a film that utilizes its concept as a means to explore other more realistic ideas that poke fun at society in some way. Great comedies are able to do that, such as ‘As Good As It Gets’. Alas, James L. Brooks is nowhere in sight. Instead, director Spheeris and writers Greg Erb and Craig Mazin take the easy route by using the concept to churn out yet another comedy that, for the most part, caters to the lowest common denominator through its use of toilet humor. Worse yet, it manages to fritter away the talents of Wayans and Spade, both of whom can be funny given the right material.
Spade is usually great at the snarky persona he is given here but the screenplay doesn’t make him quite snarky enough, softening edges that should be needlepoint sharp. Meanwhile, Wayans is a gifted physical comedian but here the material remains too bland for him to make it palatable and just plain funny for audiences. Sure, the screenplay occasionally comes up with a genuinely humorous line or situation once in a while but, for the most part, it is rather lame and uninteresting. Generic and wholly uninspired would effectively describe most of the material in this attempt at a high-concept comedy.
The phrase “could have been great” can’t quite be applied to ‘Senseless’, but it at least “could have been [decent].” Unfortunately, the filmmakers did the audience anything but a favor by softening its attempts at comedy and simultaneously creating characters with which even talented comedians were at a loss for what to do with what they were given.