Behaving Badly Review

Posted: July 5, 2014 in Comedy, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mary-Louise_Parker-BB03A film like Behaving Badly makes the review process rather simple and straight forward. If you answer yes to either of these questions, you should see the movie.

Do you like teen sex comedies?

Are you a teenage male?

Granted, there is a fair amount of overlap in the two target audiences identified through those questions, but Behaving Badly has enough kink and wit to appeal to more moviegoers than just oversexed adolescent boys. The film carries on in the tradition of Risky Business, Porky’s, American Pie, and Superbad, squeezing laughs of the familiar scenario that has young males clumsily pursuing the biological imperative, only to find out that true love is the greatest aphrodisiac of all. (Yeah, unbelievable how each generation falls for that, particularly since it’s the adults in these movies that are having the great sex.)

Rick Stevens (Nat Wolff) is after the girl of his dreams, Latin class schoolmate Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez). That’s the story, and everything else is subplot, but it’s the subplots and outstanding ensemble comedic cast that make this special. Rick’s best friend is Billy Bender (Lachlan Buchanan), who failed home schooling. Billy’s Mom (Elisabeth Shue) is Queen Cougar and she’s stalking Rick. Rick already has Mommy issues, because his mother (Mary-Louise Parker), a sorry alcoholic, is appearing in religious visions as a sexed-up saint. There are Lithuanian mobsters, hard-ass nuns, a bevy of strippers, and Latin teachers with the same life expectancy as a Spinal Tap drummer.

But wait, there’s more…

How about Dylan McDermott as the sleaziest strip joint owner of all time, Heather Graham flashing a pair of impossibly long legs, Cary Elwes in a leather harness, Patrick Warburton as a degenerate high school principal, and Gary Busey wearing a sheriff’s uniform and playing Gary Busey?

Yeah, it’s that good.

Good, but not great. Behaving Badly falls a step or two short of “classic.” Firstly, it lacks the money shot, the scene everyone talks about afterward. Secondly, the film gets a conscience at some point when Rick decides to fix his dysfunctional family. The drama does not work in a movie that thrives on raunch. It adds unnecessarily to the length of the movie and, worse, forces the viewer to evaluate the scenario in terms of realism. The audience for Behaving Badly is not interested in the main character redeeming himself. In the best case scenario in this genre, that happens by accident in the midst of the hero getting away with everything.

Wolff is a solid choice as the lead here, conveying a good-guy charm and likeability, while effectively wiping away the ill will from his terrible performance in the terrible film, Palo Alto. His co-star, Gomez, is another matter. In a highly suspect but eminently predictable decision, the marketing campaign is built around her (see the poster or the trailer). She is not that strong here. Gomez gives off a Disney vibe that doesn’t work, and the recurring gag that she wants to become a priest falls flat every time it’s trotted out. Interesting to note in a film in which she does not sing nor appear on the soundtrack is that Gomez’s voice is her best quality as an actress. She had a deeper timbre than most young actresses, a slight throaty growl that could serve her well when she grows out of the good girl roles.

In the meantime, it’s the bad girls that have all the fun in Behaving Badly, particularly Shue as the wanton Mom and Parker as Saint Lola, the sexiest messenger of God ever. These two make the film Freud’s worst dream or best nightmare.

Three stars.

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