**½/**** Image B+ Sound A- Extras B
starring Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, James Brolin
screenplay by Greg Glienna & Pete Schwaba and Matt Tarses & Bill Wrubel
directed by Chris Koch
by Walter Chaw Paul (Jason Lee) is a big-grinning milquetoast one week away from marrying chilly Karen (Selma Blair) when he wakes up next to free-spirit Tiki girl Becky (Julia Stiles) and begins to reassess his straight-arrow existence. Battling a case of the crabs, an excess of fantasy sequences, and the sort of embarrassing in-law situations that remind suspiciously of co-screenwriter Greg Glienna's Meet the Parents, Paul takes about ninety minutes longer than the audience to realize that he belongs with Becky.
Graced with Lee's easy charm and the decision to keep the badly miscast Stiles (Stiles as the wacky one is almost as weird as Helen Hunt as the wacky one in Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) modestly off-screen, A Guy Thing manages a few funny recurring bits and a jocular tone. Played as a lark, the cruelty of eleventh-hour abandonment at the altar comes off more as a complicated joke than the sort of evil-masquerading-as-cute that indicates most of the Julia Roberts genre of film. Stealing the picture in a tiny cameo is Larry Miller as Paul's minister neighbour, disgusted by the proceedings and finding himself at the finale in a position to do something about it.
That sneaky morality and a goofy sweetness are the things that make A Guy Thing a reasonably diverting trifle. No time is spent in such inanities as character and plot, while the usual pitfalls of this variety of knock-off (racism, misogyny, homophobia) are handled with an extremely light touch and a modicum of self-awareness. Paul's description of an imaginary mugger ("a light-skinned black or a dark-skinned white") and the way an unusually graceful dance instructor is portrayed showcase a surprising intelligence regarding the conventions of this kind of cold feet/hot mama spectacle.
Ultimately, however, A Guy Thing reminds a great deal of another Jason Lee film, Stealing Harvard, in basic premise (man about to be married finds ways to make an ass of himself in front of his fiancé and soon-to-be father-in-law), and of Forces of Nature, a film starring the former Jason Lee, Ben Affleck. What makes A Guy Thing better than both is, tellingly, that it isn't nearly as obnoxious as either--it's an inconsequential picture that earns a mild recommendation just because it doesn't spend the bulk of its running time being irritating or offensive. And after the Ugly American idiocy of Just Married and the noxiousness of Kangaroo Jack, something that is only instantly forgettable suddenly seems a lot better than it probably actually is. Originally published: January 27, 2003.
by Bill Chambers The surprisingly supplement-studded Special Edition of A Guy Thing kicks off with duelling 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and unmatted presentations on opposite sides of a DVD-14 platter. The film itself looks curiously aged, bereft of the luminosity of contemporary transfers; the source print was clean yet lacking in vibrancy, though colours are bold and there is sufficient detail--Paul's green sweater boasts exquisite texture that doesn't break up. While light on rear-channel usage, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix provides a good showcase for A Guy Thing's bouncy soundtrack (whose score is by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh). Director Chris Koch and actors Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, and Thomas Lennon fight for oxygen in a feature-length commentary that's good as far as excuses to reunite go, although its appeal is limited in the way of someone reminiscing about a party you didn't attend. A "fun fact" track is almost as funny-useless, spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the number of "J"-named people in Stiles's family and the like.
Taking an unfortunate cue from the DVD release of The Sweetest Thing (also starring Blair...hmmm), A Guy Thing's featurettes blend mockery and making-of, achieving far more success at the latter. (Stiles is, by her own admission, not much of a comedienne, and bombs whenever she Christopher Guests during her interview here.) In "Inside A Guy Thing" (19 mins.), we discover the project had indeed been conceptualized as a sequel to Meet the Parents and meet original scriptors Greg Glienna and Pete Schwaba. A short while later, rewriters Matt Tarses and Bill Wrubel show up sans any explanation for the production's dismissal of their predecessors, while we learn the tantalizing tidbit that despite having a "major director" who wanted to make the movie, producer David Ladd opted for Snow Day helmer Koch on instinct. Once Blair enters, the piece ceases to be informative on purpose, but because she's cute we grin and bear it.
"Bachelor Party Confidential" (9 mins.) monitors the opinions of select cast and crew on the bachelor party ritual and records their individual reactions to Lennon's tale of a 5-day bacchanal in Amsterdam. "Groovy Gravy: Making the Scene in A Guy Thing" (5 mins.) finds James Brolin in regrettable improvised outtakes doing Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I was arguably more offended to discover the picture was extensively storyboarded and still ended up resembling an '80s cheapie. (That said, I'm with Walter on the film--it's kind of endearing.) Koch introduces seven deleted scenes as well as the section for them, where we uncover a less incoherent version of the film's car alarm set-piece, as well as one "Three's Company" scenario too many as Paul, wired for eavesdropping, fakes being a devout Christian to get out of sex with Karen. Koch also hosts two alternative endings that were discussed in "Inside A Guy Thing" (I, for one, think the Space Needle's too sacred a location after The Parallax View); a fatiguing 12-minute gag reel (with Koch intro), behind-the-scenes photos, and trailers for A Guy Thing, Legally Blonde, Heartbreakers, When Harry Met Sally, and The Princess Bride (in addition to an MGM promo) round out the overstuffed yet possibly undercooked platter. Originally published: May 19, 2003.