AMATEURS, THE (aka: THE MOGULS) (director/writer: Michael Traeger; cinematographer: Denis Maloney; editor: Raúl Dávalos; music: Nic. tenBroek; cast: Jeff Bridges (Andy Sargentee), Tim Blake Nelson (Barney Macklehatton), William Fichtner (Otis), Ted Danson (Moose), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Thelma), Joe Pantoliano (Some Idiot), Glenne Headly (Helen), Lauren Graham (Peggy), Melinda Dahl(Charlene Pike), Isaiah Washington (Homer), Judy Greer (Ellie), Fiona Hunter (Veronica), Valerie Perrine (V), Alex D. Linz (Billy), Steven Weber (Howard, Second Husband), Tom Bower (Floyd), Troy Brenna (Ernest G. Pike), Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Cherkiss), Brad Henke (Ron), John Hawkes (Moe); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Laura Greenlee/Aaron Ryder; First Look Studios; 2005)
An uneven and unimaginative sex comedyabout small-town losers.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First time director-writer Michael Traegerhelms an uneven and unimaginative sex comedyabout small-town losers, of Butterface Fields, who make an amateur porn feature movie to gain some self-respect. It’s Full Monty lite, as it also fails to deliver the sex it promises just like the Brit pic failed to deliver the “full monty.” Traeger seems to think that taking shots from the neck-up is the way to go with such a risque premise, and he dismissively ends it with a moralistic lecture on real life experiences being better than porn experiences.

The porn flick idea springs up in Floyd’s bar from dreamer Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges). Idler Andy has been in a depressive state since his wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn) divorced him a year ago and with their cheery adolescent son Billy (Alex D. Linz) she now lives with her kind-hearted rich second husband (Steven Weber) in a mansion. The charismatic Andy is helped by his cronies in his porn project, in which he wants his town to come together to make an adult movie and prove to everyone that he can be someone important. Andy, along with some of his loser cronies, chip in $2,000 a piece to make the film. The investors are: Otis (William Fichtner), the church custodian who just wants “to watch” the filming and thereby becomes the executive producer; Moose (Ted Danson), the macho talking man who hides that he’s gay but doesn’t fool anyone; the moronic community college student aptly called ‘Some Idiot’ (Joe Pantoliano), who becomes writer-director because he took a course in filmmaking; Andy’s best friend Barney (Tim Blake Nelson), a repairman and the son of bar owner Floyd, who becomes the co-producer with Andy and a PR man; and two friendly but dumb factory workers named Moe (John Hawkes) and Ron (Brad Henke). The techie nerd video-store clerk Emmett (Patrick Fugit) works for free as the cinematographer, using a camcorder, to gain the filmmaking experience and for the loner to make some friends in town.

The boys then round up the porn stars: the local loose woman who dates married men, Helen (Glenne Headly), who Barney is smitten with, is to masturbate with a dildo; the owner (Fiona Hunter) and saleslady (Judy Greer) of a bed store are to do a lesbo scene; the fresh-faced Softy Freeze ice cream worker (Melinda Dahl) is to have sex with three black men; and the aging prostitute (Valerie Perrine), who finds Moose, the homo playing the main hetero-sexual role, unable to get hard but she’s eventually serviced offscreen by Moe and Ron.

The film suggests America has become shockproof to sex, as the town establishment joyfully endorses the porn project.

Where the good-natured sex film goes limp, is that it portrays no sex or shocking scenes or victims for an industry littered with vics, and the sugary Frank Capra-like conclusion coats all the affable characters with a cover of incredulous Hollywood cuteness and artificial charm and a forced happy ending. It’s a fairy tale film for those who have trouble penetrating the reality of the real world and need to believe that stupidity can also be smart by suspending their disbelief.

The talented ensemble cast seem to be having a good time with this loser film, and almost pull off the farce. But there are too few inspired moments (like the diner argument about blacks with small dicks) to make viewing worthwhile.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”