Too bad this movie isn’t actually ‘Porn’

How’s this for fairness? When they make a movie about Princeton, it wins an Oscar. when they make a movie about Harvard, Al Gore claims to have inspired it. When they make a movie about Yale, you get a schlockorama starring the teenage flavor of the month and a straight-to-video sequel — if you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky, you get “Porn ‘n Chicken,” Comedy Central’s first feature film.

If you’re looking forward to Sunday night’s premiere, try to imagine “Animal House” without nudity and John Belushi. You’d get a movie similar to “Porn ‘n Chicken,” only better.

Surely it can’t be that bad, I hear readers exclaim. I’m supposed to say something positive here, right? OK, OK … well … the film has more fake semen on screen than any film since Todd Solondz’s ’81 “Happiness.” (I have visions of a conference at the Whitney Humanities Center: “Yale Students and the Cinema of Masturbation”).

Watching “Porn ‘n Chicken” might best be described as getting the cinematic equivalent of sloppy seconds. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. The film’s better gags are those that were already used in one previous movie. Most of them were hackneyed when the makers of “American Pie” and “Road Trip” decided to resurrect them. There’s the “getting stoned for the first time” series of gags, the “dork gets laid for the first time” gag, the “students moon asshole administrators” gag, and many other innovative forms of humor.

Though it’s not the place of the critic to make suggestions to the filmmakers, I must say that the film suffers from not having a scene involving food dosed with laxatives. That might have made it witty. The film will get its biggest on-campus laugh from an inside joke involving the name of the villainous dean. (Tip: Find a friend unfortunate enough to have sat through the movie and have them tell you the joke the next morning).

The film, of course, is a highly fictionalized account of a group of seniors who anonymously announced their intention to make Yale’s first porno flick. They found a sex activist willing to perform on camera and filmed it. Unfortunately, the filmmakers talked about it a little too much after the fact, and the actress insisted that the film be destroyed.

Although no film was ever made, a recounting of the story in the News created a media feeding frenzy. The aspiring filmmakers — Joshua Newman ’01, Jamie Ponsoldt ’01, Colin Spoelman ’01 and William Marino ’01 — all received associate producer credits in this film.

The screenwriters found themselves faced with a considerable problem in spinning these events into a full-length feature. For one thing, the film was never really finished or released. Second, no one ever tried to stop the students from making such a film.

So writers Lawrence Trilling and A. D. Miles had to create some bad guys, some character development, and lots and lots of jokes to fill time.

The hero of the film is Hutch (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), a workaholic dead set on getting into law school, a nerd for the ages. After being rejected by his first-choice law school and dumped by his girlfriend, Hutch is despondent.

Salvation comes in the form of two stoner buddies, who turn Hutch on to the joys of weed, porn and fried chicken. When their activities draw the interest of a nubile campus sex activist, the boys decide to turn their hobby into a full-fledged clandestine club to impress her into bed.

As their club gains campus-wide notoriety, it draws the ire of a wealthy alum who aspires to be governor and the collegiate dean who seeks his favor. Threatened by the dean, the boys must decide whether to sacrifice their freedom to protect their futures.

The plot builds to a climax in which the corporate villain boasts, “I have the means and the will to destroy you and your families.”

Here the film degenerates into half-assed regurgitation of “Dead Poets Society” and “Scent of a Woman.” The film’s nominal messages in these heavy handed scenes are traditional and heartfelt if not particularly original: Pot, porn and getting laid are fun, while a future as a corporate drone is not. These scenes feel like the obligatory precoital dialogue in a porno film but don’t lead up to any gratification. No one really wants to see “A Separate Piece of Chicken.”

There will no doubt be a few alumni who will see this film as evidence of their alma mater’s decline into moral barbarism. They have nothing to fear. But in another sense the film can be seen as a pernicious cultural indicator. Like “The Skulls,” “Porn ‘n Chicken” imagines Ivy League universities as domains of WASP blue-bloods and their captive administrators, with only a few blue-collar students left to wage an insurrection (no pun intended).

That people still believe this to be true is lamentable; that actual Yale graduates would play a part in perpetuating this nonsense is merely pathetic.

Maybe masturbation really does make you blind.

Comments