|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 14 August 2001|
"Tomcats" is an inconsequential but amiable sex comedy that has good humor, a bit of style, the physical attributes of a number of lovely women, the charm of leading man Jerry O’Connell and the up-for-anything wildness of Jake Busey to recommend it.
O’Connell plays Michael, a cartoonist who is tight with the six best friends of his boyhood. When one of them gets married, it’s Michael who is having fits of nerves. He and his other bachelor friends are so dedicated to their single state that they make a bet on it – they will each contribute $1,000 to a mutual fund. The last man to remain single gets the kitty. Seven years later, the pot has grown to nearly $500,000. Despite this financial incentive to unwed bliss, only Michael and Kyle (Busey) haven’t yet tied the knot. Kyle, a total hound even by the loose standards of his pals, seems the least likely to marry. Then Michael gets into a situation in which he is likely to die if he can’t come up with $51,000 within the month. Desperate, he tracks down Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), the one woman Kyle might be serious about. Even though she’s a cop, Natalie turns out to be open to the idea of marrying Kyle for half of the money Michael will get if he wins the bet.
If "Tomcats" was film noir, it might go off in a number of different directions, but as it’s light comedy, it’s not hard to guess where it’s heading. The genial tone set by writer/director Gregory Poirier seldom falters, except for in one bizarre and gross sequence dealing with testicular cancer that looks as if it was done on a dare ("Go ahead, make this funny!"). Women are ogled but depicted as human (as opposed to the bitch/idiot paradigm of, say, "Saving Silverman"). As scripted and played, Michael is a very likable guy – we’re drawn into his plight to such an extent that even his duplicitous actions regarding Kyle never come off as really scummy. This is partly because Kyle seems so indestructible in the first place. Busey has a positive gift for this kind of comedy, so that Kyle’s self-absorbed adaptability becomes one of "Tomcats"’s more entertaining aspects.
The "Tomcats" DVD has two aspect ratios – widescreen and full-screen – which present themselves as options before the main menu. It should be noted that the default sound format is English 2.0. The 5.1 mix is decent, but you have to go into the set-up and select it. There aren’t too many exciting aural situations in the "Tomcats" soundtrack, but it has some nice moments, like a radio playing softly only in the right main in Chapter 4 and an amusingly engulfing blast from a car stereo system in Chapter 11. Chapter 14, with a police shoot-out scene, has odd level changes, with gunfire that is alternately forceful and muted. In the context of what’s going on in the sequence – our cop heroine alternates being all business with dreamily discussing her love life – this seems an intentional effect, but the filmmaking in-joke doesn’t quite work. The score leans toward pop and ballads, with some appealing instrumental background music by composer David Kitay.
"Tomcats" is thankfully not mean-spirited. There are no unbearable humiliations we’re asked to gloat over, just strange situations to which our hero reacts with discomfort and other characters respond to with humorously incongruous aplomb or even enthusiasm. Filmmaker Poirier shows a sense of invention in the early sequences, emphasizing points by using animation in live-action frames, which sadly just about evaporates as the film goes on. However, apart from one (admittedly distracting) grotesque misstep, "Tomcats" a light comedy that’s pleasant and well-balanced if unmemorable. By all means, hang in for the outtakes during the closing credits, which provide some of the biggest laughs.