National Lampoon's Barely Legal
MGM // R // $24.96 // January 24, 2006
Review by Don Houston | posted January 23, 2006
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Movie: As I've pointed out in the past, teenage sex comedies have long been the staple of poor filmmaking over the years, using tried and proven methods to sucker the youth market out of their money more readily than perhaps any other segment of the population due to low standards. This said, it became apparent to me that the once creative and inventive folks at National Lampoon (the magazine at least) had abandoned their ideals in favor of buying random titles that use the generic formula of most teen comedies, slap their label on it, and pawn it off as their own with such titles as National Lampoon's Going the Distance coming to mind in recent memory. The only time the company name came into the making of the movie was when they whipped out a checkbook and when they changed the title to convince people that the makers of classics such as Animal House or the Vacation series had some creative control over the show. Well, the latest in the series is National Lampoon: Barely Legal, not exactly copying the Hustler Video series by the same name, but paying a twisted form of homage to it in a round about manner.

The story follows the exploits of three guys in high school that are pretty much on the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to respect, women, and money. They are dumped on by the jocks, the party animals, and the rest of the school; wanting only to mate with attractive women and live reasonably fulfilling lives that aren't suffocated by their doting parents. They make most of their money by copying adult video tapes and selling them to other losers at school, which works fine until the one with access to the tapes loses his job at the video store. The three guys, played by Erik Von Detten, Tony Denmen, and Daniel Farber, concoct a plan to make their own porn with a specialized marketing niche; porn by virgins, for virgins. They figure it'll be easy money and as long as they don't get caught by their parents, they'll be safe. This plan has several flaws (as they soon find out) in the form of a nosy jerk neighbor, a porn star, and their complete lack of understanding about shooting a video of any type. They are saved after they spread some cash and locate a gal more than willing to break into the porn business with them in the form of the lovely Sarah-Jane Potts, a local stripper with plenty of sexual skill in need of a movie to get started in the business for real.

The humor of the movie, well at least what passed as humor, was about as dumbed down as could be. There were the jokes centered on the trio getting roughed up as losers, the jokes about their inadequacies, and the jokes about their lot in life as losers. In fairness, a few of the jokes weren't bad but seeing reasonably talented guys like Tom Arnold as the father and Horatio Saenz as the porn king (molded after the legendary Ron Jeremy in his role of "Vic Ramalot") misused to the point of absurdity was a pain in the rear. I'd pick apart the weak acting, lame script, and dozens of other failed aspects of the movie but the bottom line was that there'd be little reason to do so. There's a reason why this one played on a limited run and fell off the map in record time; it sucked (and in a bad way at that).

The movie was made in 2003 and I've seen the premise in one form or another a thousand times (a virtual take off of the Risky Business model of business achievement). That alone didn't mean it was destined for failure but it did show a lack of thought since nothing else in the movie seemed very creative either. This could've been edited down to a cable television skit of about 25 minutes long, keeping the limited amounts of nudity intact and the handful of funny jokes, and it might've earned a couple of smiles but as a full fledged movie, it certainly fell apart in record time. I'm going to rate this one as a Skip It for all the reasons in the world but at least as importantly because it wasn't worth your time. Just because I had to suffer doesn't mean you do too. In short, this turkey will only work for the most desperate of losers; losers that even the protagonists would spit on if given the chance.

Picture: National Lampoon: Barely Legal was presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors were somewhat washed out, the editing looked to be amateurish as the porno the guys were attempting to make, and the sets were so cheesy that apart from showing an incredibly low budget, showed how easy it is for someone to market a concept over the reality of a show. It looked much like a porno of old with acting almost as good but I understand that teens don't get movies like this for their technical excellence so much as the limited amount of nudity (do yourselves a favor and score some porn instead).

Sound: The audio was presented wit a choice of a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English track or a 2.0 French track (it was filmed in Canada; I think they had to provide the French track in order to make the movie), with corresponding subtitles as an option. The vocals sounded flat and hollow in most cases and the all-important music track was cursed with the low budget too. It came across as almost an after thought to the production but in fairness, the vocal track had limited separation, weak dynamic range, and seemed as though it were made on the fly too.

Extras: This was one area that had some nice bite to it with the inclusion of three extended scenes that added a bit of extra nudity with a slightly longer Locker Room scene, a slightly longer Making A Porno scene, and a moderately longer Strip Club scene. Granted, they didn't add that much footage but they were more than you'll usually find on this type of show. There were also some trailers and a paper advertisement in the DVD case for other shows.

Final Thoughts: National Lampoon: Barely Legal should've been barely released (and only in Canada) given the manner in which so few of the elements combined to make a movie worth more than a footnote about the continued demise of Tom Arnold's career. There had been some potential for Horatio Saenz's character to get some laughs but the tribute to Ron Jeremy aside, it was far less than he has shown capable of (in some of his SNL skits at least). I appreciate that it had every cliché in the book tossed in as though the addition of the parts would force them to come out properly but comedies rarely work that way and this was one case where it actually worked against the show repeatedly. If you end up renting this one and like it, by all means send me an email about it so I can provide you with a couple dozen similar movies of better quality from recent years but the limitations of the technical matters and other factors that went into this one were pretty lame.

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