And you thought the most pitiful drowning man in theaters this summer was Mark Wahlberg at the end of The Perfect Storm.
An underwhelming season of film came to a thudding halt on the Labor Day weekend with the release of Whipped, a frighteningly inept romantic comedy written and directed by somebody named Peter M. Cohen. Whoever this guy is, and however he convinced people to give him money to make his movie, it’s clear that poor Pete is out of his depth, out of his element and quite possibly out of his mind.
He has perpetrated a movie that takes the empty banality of bad sitcom dialogue, the cartoonish misogyny of In the Company of Men, the tacky profanity and vulgarity of public-access sketch comedy and combines it all into a long, boring, unsexy embarrassment. Oh, and all the main characters talk to the camera ad nauseam.
Cohen’s concept—three friends are obsessed with the same woman, but hey, she’s a playa just like them!—starts weakly, is taken in several poor directions and collapses upon itself long before a ridiculous climactic speech in which Mia (Amanda Peet) tries to justify the goings-on with some sort of pseudo-philosophical rendering about the reversal of sexual roles. It has been months since a major-studio film targeted for non-Pokémon audiences so completely lacked any semblance of sophistication or appreciation for an audience’s intelligence. It’s not that Cohen doesn’t try; it’s just that he has no idea what he’s doing.
The guys live in New York, they all say “fuck” a lot and they all have no business dating some woman who looks like Peet. There’s Jonathan, a sensitive intellectual who could easily be beaten up by any other character in the movie; a sort of generic jerk named Zeke who’s probably modeled after Vince Vaughn’s character in Swingers but comes off more like a boring Jackie Martling; and a slicked-back sexist career guy called Brad. Along with a married friend, they meet at a diner every Sunday morning to recount their sexual conquests of the past week.
Then they all meet and fall for Peet, who makes her second atrocious movie choice of the year and is in danger of sabotaging her career. She’s an engaging actress with a great smile and an offhand delivery, but taking all your clothes off for a Bruce Willis movie like The Whole Nine Yards and then dipping yourself in this crock of crap is no way to get a career.
Speaking of crap, Cohen also displays a fixation on the entire culture of bowel movements, which leads to a whole selection of jokes on the subject. Suffice to say that it’s actual toilet humor, not metaphorical toilet humor.
Cohen tries to cover up his lack of comprehensible plot and plausible characters with never-ending crudity and a checklist of set pieces that are supposed to provide insight into the world of dating. He unfolds them while the three guys—all too macho to quit dating Mia—try to win the heart of the one woman in the film with anything approaching a personality or dignity. It’s impossible to root for one, which means whatever happens in the end is going to be disappointing.
Whipped is so bad that it’s not even any fun to mock it. Cohen shot it in 15 days, apparently so his cast wouldn’t realize the career suicide they were committing until it was too late. It’s not entertaining, it’s not enlightening, it’s not breezy, and it’s not diverting. Like the close of summer and the first days of fall, it’s just kind of sad.
Whipped (R) H Directed by Peter M. Cohen. Starring Amanda Peet, Brian Van Holt and Judah Domke.