Monday, October 21, 2019

"Buff-O-Ween": Tammy and the T-Rex

This wound up being the only other "Buff-O-Ween" show I attended after Thursday's opening night, what with having already seen some things at Fantasia and having transit issues and the like, but I'm glad I did - Tammy and the T-Rex is exactly the sort of thing that the "rediscovery" portion of these events is for, something that meets and exceeds its reputation and whose insanity works the best with a whole audience unearthing it for the first time.

A thing I note in the review but which kind of took me by surprise as I watched it and pondered it afterwards was how much I liked Denise Richards in this movie. She's not any sort of good actress at this point in her career, but if she's sexy as hell and is willing not just to wear the sort of costumes that will grab eyeballs but put enough life into Tammy that she comes off as more than just a bimbo. She might have been good in farces and sex comedies, but they weren't making those in the 1990s, so she wound up doing movies that required skills she hadn't yet developed and became the butt of jokes. Maybe things go a lot different for her if there was something akin to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for her while she grew into more serious roles.

(Although, don't feel too bad for her - she's worked fairly steadily, which is more than you can say for some who made a splash for being young and hot.)

Also worth mentioning: Both Richards and Paul Walker appear in midriff-baring tops for their first scene and while it's a goofy look for him, you've kind of got to appreciate how the filmmakers at least tried to serve up a little eye candy for the ladies as well as the guys. And their gay counterparts, even if the movie is kind of right at the point of knowing it should treat that portion of the population better but not really sure how to go about it - one of the mostly-likable screw-ups changes course halfway through a slur, like the filmmakers knew this was uncool but didn't know how to do better.

Tammy and the T-Rex

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 October 2019 in Somerville Theatre #3 (Buff-O-Ween, DCP)

If I'd seen Tammy and the T-Rex when it came out twenty-five years ago, rated PG-13 and the first feature for the two cast members who would go on to bigger things, I'd have slagged it pretty mercilessly, calling it misguided at best, and I almost certainly wouldn't have dropped eleven bucks to see the restored, gory version. But here we are, with me kind of admiring its no-budget insanity and preferring its honest camp to the knowing irony of its spiritual successors.

It starts in conventional-enough territory, with handsome football star Michael (Paul Walker) wanting to go out with pretty cheerleader Tammy (Denise Richards), but she won't because she's afraid of her possessive ex Billy (George Pilgrim) and his gang of reprobates attacking anyone who comes near her. It turns out to be a justified fear, and when Billy lands in a coma, he becomes of interest to Mr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser), who has built a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex and aims to use a human brain as a control unit rather than the bulky computer system, but decides to knock off early with his busty assistant Helga (Ellen Dubin) before actually lobotomizing Mike's brain. When the sedative wears off before they return, Michael has revenge on his mind, while Tammy enlists her friend Byron (Theo Forsett) in finding her boyfriend a new body.

This is a completely ridiculous movie built around having access to an animatronic dinosaur but not a whole lot of time to write a script, and it shows. Aside from the less-than-inspired things that come out of people's mouths, there are two or three separate points where the action turns on someone fainting, and when you've got three "you're not going to believe this, but it was a dinosaur" bits back-to-back, you need to vary them or build to something in a way that writer/director Steward Raffill doesn't manage. The fact that Tammy and Byron don't seem particularly alarmed by Michael in any way after his murderous rampage is only salvaged by Denise Richards's performance, believe it or not. This movie was destined to be silly but it didn't necessarily have to be this dumb.

Given the crazy constraints that this was made under, it winds up playing like one of those 48-hour film project shorts, and that kind of works more often than not. There are a number of shots that the filmmakers shouldn't have even tried, such as every time they try to animate a full-body shot of the dinosaur walking, but when Wachenstein uses a power tool that clearly isn't the sort of bone saw that an actual surgeon would use, it feels like improvisation that they're selling rather than something that requires a meta-comment to be tossed at the audience. The same goes for the often-goofy slapstick that often involves a puppet hand reaching far further than the t-rex bot's could; the way Raffill and his crew shoot and cut this says that they know the joke doesn't make sense, but it works.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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