I walked into the theater completely prepared to hate The Pest. The theater staff seemed to reinforce my suspicion that this flick just ain't worth the film it's printed on by shuddering when I bought two tickets.
The true testimony came in the form of a completely empty theater; we were the only two saps in the whole darned place for the first evening showing.
And I figured, hey, I reviewed Star Wars last week — anything less was going to pale by comparison anyway, right?
But I should have known that in a world where Madonna could make a decent film, anything is possible. The proof is in The Pest. I laughed till my cheeks hurt.
The plot: Pest (played by the zany and wonderful John Leguizamo) is a small-time hustler-slash-con-man who gets in debt to — get this — the Scottish mob. Who, by the way, wear kilts.
In order to raise the $50,000 to get the mob off his back, Pest basically signs his life away to Gustav, played by Jeffrey Jones, the guy who was the dean of students in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The catch is that Gustav is a German gun freak who likes to hunt, uh, unusual types of game.
The last specimen that will make his collection complete, and which will hang on his wall next to the "African American" and the "Irish," is the "Latinus Spicticus" — our man Pest. Once Pest discovers Gustav's diabolic plan, the chase is on, because if Pest can stay alive for 24 hours, he gets his money.
Okay, so the plot is pretty lame and completely unrealistic, and for those of you who have raised your brow at my assertion that The Pest ain't all that bad, I say this: You don't go see a movie like this to be intellectually challenged. Instead, you see it because it was made by those who are intellectually challenged.
And if anybody finds this type of comedy a little low-brow, I have two words for you: Ace Ventura. Millions of people flocked to that movie, and it even spawned a sequel after launching Jim Carrey's career.
There is not a shred more brain matter involved in that film than in this one, and I dare say that I laughed harder at The Pest.
The true genius of this movie — and the source of almost every chuckle — is Leguizamo, who, incidentally, has waaaay better hair than Ventura anyway.
I mean, you have to love a man who would don a wig and wiggle around in a miniskirt and heels for To Wong Foo.
For The Pest, though, he adopts scads of different accents and manages to pull lines completely out of thin air. He makes the opening credits a scream with an entire five or six minutes of him singing and dancing in the shower (shaving cream covering any naughty parts).
He's certainly not politically correct, either, nor does he care if he offends: One scene has him on a karaoke stage, decked out in a polyester suit and black-rimmed glasses, singing the theme song from "Bonanza" in a highly exaggerated Japanese accent. Tactless, yes, but completely hysterical.
His energy is almost manic, and his tongue is sharper than Gustav's poison darts, which makes for some acrobatic physical comedy and some stinging one-liners. If you can stand to leave the brain at home for an hour and a half, and you're craving Good 'n' Plentys, take a look.
And as Pest would say: Love, peace and chicken grease.