The Whoopee Boys

January 20, 2011

Oh, the legacy of Animal House. Ever since the megabuck success of the landmark gross-out comedy, the stream of crude and rude films that rely on leering goofballs and subterranean body noises has continued unabated.

Sensitive observers of film are quite correct to lament this sorry state. It is a valid complaint. But, you know, raunchiness and ribaldry have their place, too. Come to think of it, Animal House was a pretty funny movie.

Now comes The Whoopee Boys, a film that deliberately seeks the crudest level of comedy. We can decry this film for its lack of erudition. But, speaking on an uninsistently personal level, I can’t deny that this movie has a few shamelessly funny sequences.

Before that is interpreted as an out-and-out recommendation, I would hasten to add that the funny moments in The Whoopee Boys are outweighed by the just plain gross. Lots of stuff doesn’t work in this scattershot affair.

The material that does pay off is an affront to common decency, which frankly can afford to be affronted now and then. This isn’t going to elevate our sensibilities or bring us closer to international understanding, but it can provide some low-level gratification.

It comes as no surprise that the screenplay is mainly the work of Steve Zacharias and Jeff Buhai, who wrote Revenge of the Nerds, another reasonably funny slob comedy. (They collaborated here with David Obst.)

They’ve invented a pair of freewheeling goombahs (Michael O’Keefe and Paul Rodriguez) and turned them loose on polite society in Florida. There’s a plot in here somewhere, an absurd thing about a nice heiress who needs to marry before she can inherit a fortune. She doesn’t want to marry the rich creeps around her, so O’Keefe offers his services.

But he’s much too outrageous to mingle in Palm Beach society, so he and Rodriguez go to a mad school of etiquette. This is mined for a few formulaic laughs, then they return to take Palm Beach by storm.

I would like to share some of the comedy of the film, but propriety dictates against it. It’s safe to say that it would appeal to a narrow, and decidedly lowbrow, sense of humor.

John Byrum directed; it’s another blip in a very odd career. He’s gone from an almost-unseen X-rated Richard Dreyfuss movie (Inserts) to a sympathetic homage to Jack Kerouac (Heart Beat) to the gruesome meeting of Somerset Maugham and Bill Murray (The Razor’s Edge).

Byrum encourages an appropriately loosey-goosey atmosphere, and O’Keefe and especially Rodriguez exploit the improvisatory situation. Like them or loathe them, these guys can really clear a room.

First published in the Herald, September 24, 1986

Who recalls The Whoopee Boys? It’s true there’s a poster for the film in the background of a set in Hot Rod, which is a much funnier picture. This is a weird review, and I don’t even bother to cite the handful of low-humor scenes that apparently made me laugh. Byrum must be sort of an interesting character; at any rate, I genuinely liked Heart Beat, and perhaps someday I will actually watch the Murray version of The Razor’s Edge again, just to see anew one of the strangest Hollywood projects ever.