Idle Hands (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Idle Hands is a comedy/gore film somewhere along the same line of heritage as American Werewolf in London. To extend that comparison for a minute, Idle Hands is comparable to Werewolf in terms of the grotesque and comical splatter, and in its treatment of the decaying dead as ongoing comic relief characters. Both have scary moments when they act as real horror movies, and both have moments when they seem to be parodies of horror movies. Where this movie differs from Werewolf is that it has far less drama, substituting good-natured lowbrow stoner comedy instead.

Oh, of course it isn't a great movie. It's juvenile and, predictably, the critics hated it.

But I like this junk movie.

There are movies that we watch just for pure sleazy entertainment, movies like American Werewolf or The Devil's Advocate or Wild Things, films that are just meant to give us a lot of over-the-top stimulation from scares and sex and drugs and rock 'n roll. This is one such movie.

 Two reasons:

(1) A young actor named Devon Sawa took on a remarkable physical challenge. He had to play the part of a man at war with his own right hand, which was possessed by a demon from hell. This required the kind of physical dexterity necessary to be a great pianist - the ability to move right and left hands as if they had separate minds controlling them. There seemed to be times when his right hand truly must have been a prop operated by another actor, and yet I'm pretty sure that he did it all with pure acting.

That may sound dopey to you on the surface, but it is an accomplishment.

I was an actor many years ago - not a good one, but I still think like one. If I were asked to play a part like this, my first thought would be, "how can I do this with enough energy to get the laughs, and yet with enough control that I don't seem like Corporal Agarn in a particularly bad episode of F Troop. I have to do all this physical schtick, and still manage to play the vulnerable teen, like Jason Biggs in American Pie. I ain't takin' this part. I'll look like a complete ass." And my first reaction would have been correct. If I had played this part when I was the right age, I would have looked like an ass. Indeed if 95% of professional performers played this part, they would come off looking like complete assholes, as Jerry Lewis proved again and again in his films. Yet, amazingly, Devon Sawa pulled this off and had me laughing at slapstick, a feat which is all but impossible, because I hate slapstick. My hat is off to the kid. He did an amazingly good job with this juvenile and impossible-to-act material.


Kelly Monaco is topless as a victim.

Jessica Alba appears in underpants, with virtually all of her buns falling out at the bottom.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Theatrical trailer(s)

  • "Making of" Featurette

  • Deleted footage presented in a featurette

  • Storyboard-to-film splitscreen comparison

  • Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

(2) Jessica Alba. It is never really possible to determine which woman among the 20ish crowd will become the beauty of her generation, as Jacqueline Bisset and Michelle Pfeiffer were among their age groups. I don't believe that anyone trying to make a prediction in 1980, or even in 1985, would have picked Michelle Pfeiffer as the one to emerge with the title from among her contemporaries. Pfeiffer managed to achieve such status through a combination of exceptional beauty, audience-friendliness, an inner radiance, elegance, a non-threatening presence, competent performances, a reasonable level of intelligence, and sheer endurance. It isn't enough just to be breathtakingly beautiful. Ask Kelly LeBrock, if you can find her.

I can't say that Jessica Alba will push aside the contenders like Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson and become her generation's reigning beauty. Perhaps not. Perhaps Alba will simply end up as the Kelly Le Brock of her generation. She hasn't yet demonstrated either the mature temperament or the talent necessary to prevail. But I'll say this. I've been following her career for five years, and she gets more beautiful every year. And she was pretty damned gorgeous to begin with!

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 1/4, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.4/10, BBC voters 4/5
  • It grossed only $4 million in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. If you like this kind of movie, you will enjoy this one, but it is not meant for a wide crossover audience.

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