Once upon a time, writer-director Daniel Waters wrote a pitch-black satire of high-school-as-Jacobean bloodbath called HEATHERS, and even though he's written five other films since (including the notorious HUDON HAWK and THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE), you wouldn't know it by this tacky sex comedy. It's as if he's taken every plot idea, every turn of phrase and every random thought he's had over the past 20 years and crammed them into one overstuffed and overworked script.
With his irresistible bedroom eyes, charmingly uncontrollable blond forelock and self-satisfied grin, Roderick Blank (Simon Baker) thinks he has it all. He's made his fortune with an upscale fast-food franchise called "Swallows" (picture it on a nametag under a female employee's name and laugh; it's supposed to be a joke) and he's about to be married to an uptight blonde named Fiona Wormwood (Julie Bowen) who's just bitchy and beautiful enough to keep his eye from wandering. Then his assistant, Trixie (The Facts of Life's Mindy Cohn), goes ahead and opens an anonymous email addressed to Rod and containing nothing more than a list of 101 women's names. Rod instantly recognizes the first 29 as the names of every woman he's ever bedded, arranged in chronological order. Number 29, naturally, is Fiona, but who are the other 72? Rod assumes it's a prank by one of his friends designed to rib Rod about all the sex he won't be having once he ties the knot, but that night at his bachelor party Rod has sex with a stripper whose name just happens to be the next on the list. Convinced it's no joke and amazed at the amount of sex fate has in store for him, Rod calls off his engagement and begins working his way down the list, even though he's strongly urged to destroy it by Alpha (Robert Wisdom), Beta (Tanc Sade) and Fred (Patton Oswalt), three mysterious men who seem to exist in some kind of ill-defined MATRIX dimension. Alpha explains that an oracular supercomputer took it upon itself to send out emails to random people. Most just gave out death dates but for some unspecified reason, Rod got The List, and if he continues to use it to guide his sexual conquests, it will infect every part of his life. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman dubbed "Death Nell" (Winona Ryder) by the press continues on her bizarre crime spree. She's been serially seducing high-profile misogynists, then injecting them with coma inducing chemicals before decorating the crime scene with a spray-painted slogan that reads like bad Sylvia Plath: "What you call breathing is suffocating me." As her body count climbs into the double digits, Death Nell becomes something of a feminist folk hero, even though no one knows her real name. Could that name also be on Rod's list? And if it is, how will he know?
If the ridiculous and overcomplicated plot weren't enough, Waters' screenplay is filled with countless tangential dead-ends (like the one which ends with Rod having sex with a leprous old woman) and pointless musings on a random array of subjects. It's all a pretentious bore that feels twice as long as it's two-hour running time, and even though it pretends to decry the behavior of womanizing jerks like the aptly named Rod, the women are all bumbling idiots, psycho bitches, feminist harridans or male-fantasy lesbians who are in reality just dying for Rod. leave a comment --Ken Fox