Peter Gallagher, who became a patron saint of the yuppies-in-distress sub-genre with SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, heads a capable cast in this above-average contemplation of modern urban mores, marking a promising debut by writer/director Tom Flynn.
Gallagher plays John, whose aimless wandering since leaving college has landed him on the Chicago doorstep of his estranged first cousin Michael (Jon Tenney). Immediately, John is recruited as a pawn in an ongoing game played by Michael and his two roommates, wounded romantic Rick (John C.
McGinley, who also co-produced) and goofy sports car mechanic Danny (Tom Sizemore). Called "Watch It," the game consists of the three playing stupid, sometimes elaborate, practical jokes on each other--Michael, for example, crams a confused John into the house refrigerator so that he can spring
out and scare Rick.
Soon afterward, John meets and is smitten with veterinarian Anne (RICH IN LOVE's Suzy Amis), without knowing that she has just broken up with Michael, a remorseless womanizer. Rick, meanwhile, fears making a commitment to his girlfriend Ellen (THE PLAYER's Cynthia Stevenson), while Danny, the
only one of the trio to lack sex appeal, depends on bar pickups for fleeting fulfillment. John is also skittish where commitment is concerned, making his budding relationship with Anne vulnerable when Michael decides to reclaim his former territory. John prepares to relinquish Anne and hit the
road again, but changes his mind and puts into motion a "Watch It" prank that results in the permanent separation of Michael and Anne, the temporary separation of Rick and Ellen, and some tense moments for Danny. John then gets a job and sets about trying to win Anne back, but breaks with his
cousin over the latter's immaturity and callousness. These qualities in Michael, though, are revealed to have resulted from a dysfunctional childhood; we learn that Michael envies John for the stable upbringing he received, and is constantly trying to revenge himself on womankind for having had to
grow up with an alcoholic mother.
WATCH IT is awash in "men's movement" psychobabble, including a particularly lamentable tendency to excuse men for their swinish behavior by attributing it to their painful childhood experiences. It finally redeems itself, however, by illustrating the need for individual responsibility, exposing
the typical "Iron John" excuses for what they are. Rather than stressing the boyish boisterousness of the title game, Flynn makes it clear that it functions as a substitute for real involvment with the outside world, and particularly with women. Ultimately, the "sensitive" discussions in which the
men confront their problems come to seem like the same thing, but on a more sophisticated level; it's only when John learns that some things about human behavior can't simply be explained away or talked through that he begins to show some promise as a decent human being.
WATCH IT's female characters are thin. Anne never really graduates past being a therapeutic case study, despite the efforts of her assistant at the veterinary practice (Lili Taylor) to seriocomically sort out her neuroses with a little help from Oprah Winfrey. Ellen, meanwhile, seems so much the
dream woman--attractive, but not too attractive, sexual but not too sexy, stable and sensible but not cold--that why she wastes time on someone like Rick, and indeed ends up marrying him, becomes a major imponderable. Nonetheless, WATCH IT remains a relatively smart movie on a subject that's all
too often handled with slack-jawed stupidity. (Profanity, adult situations, nudity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Peter Gallagher, who became a patron saint of the yuppies-in-distress sub-genre with SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, heads a capable cast in this above-average contemplation of modern urban mores, marking a promising debut by writer/director Tom Flynn. Gallagh… (more)