Title: Hard Breakers
Director: Leah Sturgis
Starring: Cameron Richardson, Sophie Monk, Tom Arnold, Chris Kattan, Tia Carrere, Bobby Lee, Adam Gregory, Mircea Monroe, Lochlyn Munro, Sticky Fingaz, Alexis Arquette
Wherever Tom Arnold goes in the afterlife he will have to answer for many embarrassments, but the unlikely response to what might be his biggest arrives in the form of “Hard Breakers”, a jaw-droppingly inane collection of half-sketched scenes masquerading as some sort of exercise in girl-power. Actually, that’s a cheap shot… Arnold’s role here is only a small one, but it’s still an undeniable stain on what has evolved into a surprisingly nice little career. The chief blameworthy party is first-time feature director Leah Sturgis, who, in ostensibly trying to craft a gender-reversal of all those romantic comedies where a young guy with a wandering eye eventually learns the benefits of intimacy and monogamy, instead unleashes something woefully inept and stupendously unfunny — a movie that slots into that special sub-category of terrible, the one that calls out for alcohol and friends with an appreciation for barbed derision.
The instruments for Sturgis’ celluloid crime are Cameron Richardson and Sophie Monk, who slink about in bikinis as Alexis and Lindsay, respectively. A pair of now-twentysomething Los Angeles pals since high school who have no discernible jobs or income yet live in a trendy, beachfront cottage, the girls are enjoying sowing their wild oats when they get extra tired of clingy guys, and discover one dude who, post-concussion, is extremely horny. Figuring this to be a scientific fact that holds true for all men, they set about stalking dudes and hitting them over the head with surfboards before taking them back to their homes and seducing them. There are a few other interwoven subplots and complications, but not much more one need concern themselves with, really.
Co-written by Sturgis and Elaine Fogg, “Hard Breakers” wants to be an even more willfully goofy comedy of estrogenized uplift, in the vein of something like Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate’s “The Sweetest Thing”, or “The Ex-Terminators”, starring Heather Graham, Jennifer Coolidge and Amber Heard. This is to say that it’s forcefully wacky, in everything from its scenes and acting (with Richardson and Monk pulling faces) to some of its very few production flourishes (the sound effect of a ringing bell attached to a wink). It’s hard to figure out exactly what world “Hard Breakers” unfolds in, however. The backdrop is more or less realistic, but almost all of the men of consequence are either whipped, ineffectual twits or preening jackasses who speak in ways no real guy does (“It’s got tits, I say we go for it!”). Granted, the girls don’t exactly come across much better, but one of the greatest of many problems with “Hard Breakers” is something that hamstrings it right out of the gate: the fact that its basic premise is flawed and faulty. Even if both Alexis and Lindsay wanted strings-free sex (and hey, no harm, no foul), the notion that they would have to resort to smashing men over the head to achieve this arrangement is beyond ridiculous. And, well, if the entire conceit is meant to be a gender-swap goof, the film’s bifurcation in its presentation of men critically undercuts this.
Then there are all the smaller sins and cringe-inducing moments. Arnold plays Alexis’ father, who’s just left his wife and taken up with a girl a bit younger than her, and “MADtv”‘s Bobby Lee and erstwhile rapper Sticky Fingaz play two guys the girls bag early on, before they hatch their scheme. But the bulk of the rest of the cameos from recognizable faces (Chris Kattan, Alexis Arquette, Lochlyn Munro and Tia Carrere) seem so untethered to the rest of the story that it’s almost as is they just showed up on set one day and winged everything, on some sort of improvisational dare. For a while this… well, funny is definitely “not” the right word, but it creates the sense of a crazy, unhinged world where anything can happen. Fairly quickly, though, the utter lack of any rhyme, reason or discernible, honest character motivation becomes a sucking drain on proceedings, no matter how wildly upbeat Richardson and Monk play-act.
Twenty-five years ago this sort of sub-“Porky”‘s inversion of horn-dog adolescence could have counted on the fact that its lead starlets are clad in barely-there bikinis for virtually its entire running time to secure it a modest cult audience embrace, and certainly a decent financial return, no matter the stultifying dialogue and incomprehensible characterizations. These days, there are far better and easier ways to see boobs, guys.
Written by: Brent Simon