R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jeff Schaffer
scr Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
with Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg, Travis Wester, Jessica Boehrs, Kristin Kreuk, Matt Damon, Vinnie Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Lucy Lawless, Rade Sherbedgia, Joanna Lumley
release US 20.Feb.04, UK 25.Jun.04
04/US 1h36

Somewhere in northern France: Pitts, Mechlowicz, Trachtenberg and Wester (above); Wester, Mechlowicz and Pitts (below).

damon jones lumley
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This freewheeling romp has just enough knowing humour to keep us laughing. But only if we're able to make fun of Americans abroad! It's a rowdy mix of American Pie/Porky's comedy, sharp observational jokes and zany characters that push the boundaries of every stereotype imaginable. Really, the only things missing are Jennifer Coolidge and Kim Cattrall!

After a humiliating dumping by his slutty girlfriend (Smallville's Kreuk), Scott (Mechlowicz) struggles to regain his dignity during his high school graduation festivities. In a drunken stupor, he insults his German e-penpal Mieke (Boehrs), who he thinks is a guy; so when he realises she's actually a hot blonde he decides to head to Berlin with his goofy pal Cooper (Pitts) to sort things out. But the journey is hardly straightforward; they connect with their friends, the twins Jamie and Jenny (Wester and Trachtenberg, all grown up since Harriet the Spy), for adventures in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Bratislava and Rome before they finally catch up with Meike.

The filmmakers take a kitchen sink approach, throwing in anything that might get us laughing--goofy slapstick, madcap cameos, sniggering sexual antics, inane nudity and lots of humiliation. And they seem to know what they're talking about! The funniest bits involve either severely incorrect comedy (a laceratingly daft sojourn in Eastern Europe) or astute jabs at insular culture. And some of the general silliness (Damon's cruel rock-star turn) is quite hilarious. What doesn't work are elaborate set pieces like the strained "The Pope is dead, long live the Pope!" climax, which seems belaboured and uninspired. And while some stereotypes nail their targets (Lawless' Dutch dominatrix), others are sadly under-imagined (Jones' football hooligan). It's also strange that they leave one of the best bits (Lumley's youth hostel "welcome" speech) for the closing credits. But at least the central foursome are engagingly good fun to travel with, as each has several outrageous mini-adventures all their own. And every bit player gives it their all to keep the energy level high enough to carry us through.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo, nudity 18.Apr.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall