Friday, June 4, 2010

Film Review: DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE (1995, David Price)

Stars: 3.4 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Tag-line: "A comedy about an experiment that got WAY OUT of control!"
Notable Cast or Crew: Tim Daly (DINER, STORM OF THE CENTURY), Sean Young (BLADE RUNNER, WALL STREET), Lysette Anthony (SAVE ME, KRULL), Harvey Fierstein (MRS. DOUBTFIRE, TORCH SONG TRILOGY), Jeremy Piven (ELLEN, ENTOURAGE), Stephen Tobolowsky (WEDLOCK, GROUNDHOG DAY), Polly Bergen (CAPE FEAR '62, CRY-BABY).
Best one-liner: "Who would've thought that if another woman came between me and Sarah, that it would be me!"

This movie is pretty damn zany and you know how I feel about movies that get too zany, but let me tell you- this is DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE. [Not to be confused with Hammer's DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, the ramshackle 70's softcore THE ADULT VERSION OF JEKYLL AND HYDE, or the community theater chestnut, DR. JEKYLL... PLEASE DON'T HYDE.] I first discovered this film during a VHS hunt which I outlined here.

A lot of the draw here, for me at least, is Sean Young. Sean Young is sort of the female Gary Busey. Now she doesn't have a lot of the conspicuous indicators that Gary does (ginormous teeth, a penchant for turning regular words into loopy, meaning-rich acronyms, a propensity for calling people 'butt-horns'), but make no mistake- like Busey, she's wildly talented and more than a little loco. And I say that with a lot of affection. I, for one, am with her 100% in heckling Julian Schnabel or in storming the Warner Brothers backlot- in costume- in a bid to be cast as Catwoman in BATMAN RETURNS.

Now, she's certainly not at her "best" here (who could be?), but she brings enough to the role that you're left wondering if perhaps Sean Young exists as the 'last man standing' in a real life internal-gender-battle-of-wills similar to the one depicted within the hallowed reels of DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE.

Sean Young smokes defiantly in a laboratory.

If you couldn't predict the plot from the title, it goes a little something like this: perfume scientist Dr. Richard Jacks (Tim Daly) inherits some old science manuals from a relative, who was the real-life Dr. Jekyll.

The ancestral Hyde.

In an attempt to compensate for the aggressive behavior of the unfortunate Mr. Hyde, he ups the estrogen levels, and *voila* we're entreated to Sean Young as 'Helen Hyde.' While this immediately leads only to a credit-card swiping high-fashion shopping montage, events quickly become much more complex.

The quintessential 90's shopping montage.

Problems with a fianceé (SAVE ME's Lysette Anthony), upper-echelon corporate politics, and increasingly sociopathic (but not altogether unpredictable) behavior on the part of Ms. Hyde lead to a variety of comic situations, many of which muster groans, but quite a few of which elicited appreciative applause and warm feelings of good cheer, not unlike the A*P*E's reaction to hang-gliding (which was pontificated upon by this site not too long ago).

On to the writing–
Now we know there's going to be A., a set-up:

i.e., the big transformation from male scientist to femme fatale alter-ego, and, B., a big finale: i.e., a spit-take inducing reveal to everyone that Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde are one and the same. The writers (of which SIX are credited!- including Robert Louis Stevenson) merely had to take us from point A to B in a manner which was not entirely nescient, and in this endeavor, they did not disappoint. Oh wait, yes they did.

I consider this an "Oh boy" movie. An "Oh boy" movie is a one during which I am frequently seen to be raising an eyebrow and uttering "Ohhhhhhh boy" in a blend of mild bemusement and profound disgust. It must also be mentioned that some of my favorite movies are "Oh boy" movies.

Exposition is rammed down our throats via line-readings ("You're a successful architect and I'm a failure!" –"No, you're not, you were the youngest chemist ever hired by..."). We are entreated to whacky moments such as the following-

Aunt Agatha is such a nutball- she mistook a stuffed bear for Dr. Jacks!

"I'm not a Jacks- I'm a Jekyll!"

A depiction of a DNA molecule straight out of THE LAWNMOWER MAN.

"Who would've thought that if another woman came between me and Sarah, that it would be me!"

"I'm a genius! ...What am I talking about?!– I'm gonna be a DEAD genius!"

Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson from GROUNDHOG DAY) and Harvey Fierstein as a couple of dunderheaded executives.

Sean Young is so irresistable that she brings Fierstein back into the heterosexual fold-

"What am I paying you for? 20 years in therapy and I start liking girls? That's malpractice!"

But in a strange twist of events, Tobolowsky- known for his scenery-gorging performances- gives an extremely muted, complex portrait of a man coming to grips with his own place in the world.

"Lover lips is here!"

I think I neglected to mention that most of this is set to jammin' instrumentals that are so goddamned peppy that they make C + C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" seem like a funeral dirge by comparison.

Anyway, onto that spit-take inducing finale I was talking about. And I wasn't kidding– before you can say "It's your going away party, bitch!," the true nature of the experiment is revealed,

and we get not one,


not two,


not three,


but FOUR


spit-take reaction shots. That's three more than I expected. And for that, DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE, you deserve just about three and a half stars. And as I make that statement, I fully expect the coffin of Robert Louis Stevenson to pop up in Antarctica or Paraguay or something, because his grave's probably spinning at such a velocity that it's bored a hole through the Earth's core.

-Sean Gill

6. BLIND FURY (1989, Philip Noyce)
7. HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951, John Farrow)
8. HIGH SCHOOL U.S.A. (1983, Rod Amateau)
9. DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE (1995, David Price)
10. ...


J.D. said...

I dig Sean Young as well. Anyone who can put the fear of God into James Woods is OK by me. It's too bad that, like Shannen Doherty, she's her own worst enemy and burned more than a few bridges in Hollywood.

As guilty pleasures go, I thought she was a hoot in the first ACE VENTURA film. The girl's got killer comic timing!

Sean Gill said...

Hah, yeah- James Woods is the one who's supposed to scare YOU, not the other way around! Apparently they've recently revisited the feud, and the the wounds are still fresh, with Woods saying Young unleashed a "jihad of terror" on him. Wow. But yeah, I always enjoy her work, and I think that the 'tinge of Busey-crazy' only enhances her performances.

Jillaine said...