I've been struggling for minutes -- OK, maybe seconds -- now to decide which is the funniest gag in "Tomcats," the directorial debut of Gossip and "Rosewood" writer Gregory Poirier. Is it the one at the beginning of the film, in which cartoonist Michael Delaney (Jerry O'Connell) and his friends accidentally down Viagra and then attend a wedding, only to become truly stand-up groomsmen? What a hoot!
Could it come later, when tubby Steve (Horatio Sanz of "Saturday Night Live" and "Road Trip") catches his pretty, blond wife (Jaime Pressly of TV's "Jack and Jill") in what looks like a lesbian embrace, only to discover that it's an optical illusion? (Or is it?) How about the part where the same jovial fellow -- he's fat, you know -- has an unfortunate encounter with a garden hose? No, perhaps it's the bit that sees a mousy librarian turning into a ... oops! I'm honor-bound not to give away this fascinating twist.
Wait, I know: The hands-down biggest laugh getter of all is when Michael chases pal Kyle's (Jake Busey) slimy, springy, recently removed testicle all over a hospital, only to watch it land in the bonbon tray of a physician (David Ogden Stiers, whose name doesn't appear in the film's publicity materials). Said doctor consumes the delicacy without so much as a flinch. Gross!
The correct answer is "D," for none of the above. That letter also suits the worse-than-mediocre quality of "Tomcats," the lamest waste of time at the movies since See Spot Run -- which, not coincidentally, also boasted an unfunny scene involving a stupid person becoming very confused after getting soaked with water. Writer/director Poirier haplessly pours his bag of kitty litter, spilling scantily clad women and old, bad jokes all over a script that's as brilliant as anything ever scribbled on the walls of a junior-high-school bathroom.
"Tomcats" aims low, clearly intending to become this season's equivalent of American Pie or Road Trip, but coming closer to the truly awful Whipped. The setup, like everything else about the film, is inane: Unified by their distaste for the idea of marriage, Michael, Kyle, Steve and their friends put their money where their mouths are, throwing their cash into an ever-growing jackpot that will go to "the last man standing."
Michael is also stuck with a $51,000 gambling debt he must repay in 30 days, or else be subjected to the punishment -- death -- mandated by the surly casino owner ("Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher, a smart guy with unusually poor judgment in his choice of movie cameos). The only way out is to get male chauvinist pig Kyle hooked up with Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), an old one-night stand bent on revenge and up for a shot at part of the $500,000 or so now accumulated in the pot.
It gets worse as Michael and Natalie (a supposedly tough policewoman) pair up to investigate the mating habits of their intended victim. Lines fall flat. The comic timing is hopelessly askew. Natalie spills her guts to her work partner during a shoot-out scene that's painful to experience. In the best-case scenario, "Tomcats" will fade away quickly and quietly, sparing its cast of mostly young actors any permanent damage.