S.F.W. (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

You would think that it would be easy to make a good film satirizing America's obsession with fame and the famous. Certainly our country has conferred fame upon more than a fair share of the undeserving, certainly we are obsessed with our idols, and certainly our media have shamelessly fueled and profited from our obsessions. 

I reckon it isn't as easy as we think, because that blistering and hilarious satire has yet to appear. There were two major efforts in 1994. Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, with script work from Quentin Tarantino, and SFW, which was written by the same guy who wrote the BAFTA-winning script for Groundhog Day. (The release of S.F.W. was postponed until 1995, some say because of thematic similarities to Natural Born Killers. Whatever the real reason, the delay didn't help at the box office. The film grossed less than $100,000.)

In both cases, some big-time sharpshooters were taking aim at broad targets - yet missing in both cases. I'm not sure why, but I think part of the reason is that the point is so obvious that it needs to stay in the background of a story which otherwise has merit. In both of those movies, the authors seem to be so smugly impressed with their grasp of the obvious that they fairly wallow in a virtual pig slop of repetition and broadly drawn characterizations.

Natural Born Killers is the better of the two films because, while it lacked subtlety and wandered off on some downright foolish tangents, it also has moments of genuine brilliance. SFW is really just loud and strident. If it were a person, it would be that loud uncle at your family Christmas parties who thinks he can win every family argument by simply speaking louder and more confidently than those who oppose him. You say Aunt Tilly has a better line of argumentation, or a fact which destroys his entire chain of reasoning? No problem. He will simply regain the upper hand by browbeating her and raising his voice a few notches until she wearies of the debate and concedes every point just so she can get some peace.

A slacker teen named Spab and his friend are held hostage with three others by a gang of terrorists. Their captivity takes place in a convenience store, and lasts for 36 days. The terms of the kidnappers include a demand that the entire hostage ordeal be televised 24/7, and that demand is met once the terrorists kill one of the hostages. This creates the ultimate reality show in which viewers may tune in at any time to see the relationships between the hostages, or to see them interact with their captors. As the crisis unfolds on camera, Spab becomes a national idol because he simply doesn't give a shit. Ironically, the very same quality which made Spab a total loser in society makes him a hero in a hostage crisis. Just as he defied his teachers, parents, and employers and made himself a nobody without a future, he now defies the abductors, and makes himself a hero! Mimicking his nihilism becomes trendy. His catch-phrase of "So Fuckin' What?" is on everyone's lips as well as their t-shirts.

Imagine his surprise and confusion when the hostage crisis ends and he finds out that the people who used to ridicule him now hold him up as an icon because they admire the very same attitude they used to despise. Seeing this hypocrisy makes him have even less respect for people than he used to, but that in turn makes the people he despises love him even more! Attitude, man! He wants to escape from the people who want to apotheosize him, but he also needs to ward off the vultures and profiteers who want to help him cash in on his fifteen minutes of apotheosis.

The dramatic focus within the dark comedy, if indeed there is one, is the question of whether Spab can ever find peace of mind and anonymity again when every one of his attempts to withdraw from people makes them want to be near him all the more. At one point Joey Lauren Adams tries to drive him away from it all (right), but I have to think she would have done better with her eyes open.

A surprise ending finally resolves Spab's dilemma appropriately, and with at least a touch of wit ...

... which is more than what I can say for what came before.

S.F.W is a real disappointment from a guy who has written one of my favorite comedies (Groundhog Day).



  • Excellent widescreen transfer, anamorphically enhanced, but no significant features.


Joey Lauren Adams. During a sex scene, she shows first the right nipple, then the left, both times barely in view.

Melissa Lechner shows her breasts in good light by opening her robe dramatically.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $63,000
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, it's a C-, a loud and obvious movie, but one which seems to strike a chord with those who share its 90s angst.

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