A juvenile concoction of slapstick, shock and sex, Bachelor Party wears the excesses of its era like a badge, cramming in every clichéd conflict and obligatory setpiece that made 80’s cinema amiable and intolerable in equal measure. The components are certainly in place for a raucous comedy, generating goodwill through breakneck pacing and mammocentric visual motif, but the assembly is haphazard and pedestrian, exposing its ineptitude the moment Tom Hanks and Tawny Kitaen aren’t drawing focus.
Ad-libbing his way through the lead role, Hanks plays Rick Gassko as the sarcastic life of the party, furnishing the character with enough snarky material to keep the audience rapt during bouts of nonsensical monologue. He and his gang of cronies are frat boys without diplomas, coasting through monotonous day jobs, fueled only by the thrill of beer-soaked evenings and dreams of carnal embrace. Gathering at a pub for a monumental announcement, Rick sheepishly divulges his plans for marriage, sending waves of dissonance through his posse of perpetual bachelors. The cacophony is finally broken by the most stentorian of the group, shouting a rallying cry of masculine potency: “Let’s have a bachelor party with chicks and guns and fire trucks and hookers…!”
Anyone familiar with the rules of the game will recognize that discord is necessary to propel a story this unsophisticated forward. The writing staff, realizing their folly, decided to go for broke and include three trite sources of conflict: disapproving parents, a scheming ex-spouse and extracurricular restrictions (i.e. no hookers). Despite being the source of all of Rick’s distress, Debbie, our prospective bride, is a full-bodied character, brought to life by Tawny Kitaen in a performance that matches Hanks’ vivacity with equal charisma and attitude. The pair also share a palpable chemistry, contradicted only by the superficial relationships struck between the supporting cast, all of whom seem forced in from different motion pictures. The most glaring example is Cole, the aforementioned sociopath that had previously dated the emotionally incompatible Debbie, who is necessary to the story only as a hurdle for Rick and as the brunt of many feeble jokes.
In spite of Cole’s bribes and the advances of his female guests, Rick survives his hotel suite shindig unscathed, maintaining his role as archetypal good guy. His groomsmen, on the other hand, bed multiple partners, pop pills, deface property and act as accomplices to bestiality, all of which curiously occurs offscreen. Racial humor seems to be the only taboo topic the writing staff is willing to broach, leaving behind several missed opportunities, particularly a transgendered sexual encounter that deserved more than a perfunctory “pee standing up” punchline.
A smattering of sight gags teeter toward the callous, but any violation is minor enough to be glossed over by Tom Hanks’ infectious energy. He’s the sole survivor of Bachelor Party, rising above the tackiness of the production through waggish dance floor gyrations, writhing in spasms on a couch solely for our amusement. Without his charms, this party would be a dismal affair, overwhelmed by woeful post-synchronization and a deafening soundtrack, so saxophone heavy that it drowns out the rare attempt at substance.
Bachelor Party (20th Century Fox, 1984)
Directed by Neal Israel
Written by Bob Israel (story), Neal Israel (screenplay) and Pat Proft (screenplay)
Photographed by Hal Trussell