Home Fries (Warner Bros.). A shaky combination of not very funny black humor and heavy-handed quirkiness is almost redeemed by Drew Barrymore's charming performance as a very pregnant fast-food drive-through worker, but not quite. Critics' responses to the film (written by X-Files writer Vince Gilligan) range from dismissal to modest praise. Most make an effort to note Barrymore's talents, especially her ability to project a refreshing, "mischievous, very uncorny niceness" (Mick LaSalle, the San Francisco Chronicle). (Read about Barrymore's checkered past on CelebSite.)
Jerry Springer: Ringmaster (Artisan Entertainment). Critics agree that this film is exploitative and trashy; the split is over whether the "bitch-slap violence, salacious overkill, and brazen fakery" (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly) are fun to watch. As with the real Jerry Springer Show, this fictionalized version either delights or disgusts--or in some cases both--but the scales tip more toward disgust. Critics hail the funny performances of several of the "guests," but the film is basically the show without daytime TV's decency standards. (This Springer fan site offers "Jerry's bodyguard's webcam," detailed fake bios, and great doctored photos.)
Very Bad Things (PolyGram Filmed Entertainment). The directorial debut of Chicago Hope actor Peter Berg, a tale of a Las Vegas bachelor party gone bad, is a dud: "Rarely has a movie tried so hard to rub our noses in the vileness of human nature" (David Ansen, Newsweek). After an accidental towel hook to the head of a prostitute and an intentional corkscrew to the heart of a hotel security guard, the film turns into a corpse disposal nightmare, complete with chain saws and makeshift desert graves. The most repellent feature of the film is the implication that if you are horrified by the escalating violence it's because you're not hip enough to laugh at it. (Visit the official site.)
Illustrations by Mark Alan Stamaty.