The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Bad Johnson

A month or so ago, I got a press release about Bad Johnson, which is the story of a womanizer whose penis magically becomes a real person. Reading the plot synopsis, I knew the movie would either be hilariously brilliant or downright awful. It's the latter. Genitalia comedies are nothing new (I wrote about another of them, 1977's Chatterbox, for Daily Grindhouse) and most of them are relentlessly vulgar. Bad Johnson is vulgar, but not quite as vulgar as it might have been, which, now that I think about it, is probably the only real positive thing I can say.

Cam Gigandet plays inveterate womanizer Rich Johnson. When we first meet him, he's caught sleeping with his girlfriend's sister. After this breakup, he falls for Jamie (Jamie Chung) and thinks it might be the real thing. But then he has a fender bender and ends up getting a sex act performed on him by the other driver. Jamie breaks things off when she finds out about his unfaithfulness. Frustrated by his insatiable libido, Rich curses out his genitalia. When he wakes up the next morning, his penis is missing. Then he meets R.P. (Nick Thune), the humanized form of his junk. (R.P. stands for Rich's Penis.) R.P. is a real troublemaker, apologetically hooking up with every woman he can find. Meanwhile, his absence from Rich's crotch messes up a blossoming romance with new flame Lindsay (Katherine Cunningham).

In twenty-some years of film criticism, I never thought I'd have to write a line like that.

Bad Johnson had an opportunity to satirize and comment on the psychology of womanizing, but passes it up altogether. The film contains a very predictable, unoriginal arc about Rich learning to be a Better Person after discovering True Love. Every beat of the plot is formulaic, so that you know exactly where it's going to go long before it gets there. Jeff Tetreault's screenplay seems afraid of delving into anything potentially complex or identifiable, opting instead to stick closely to well-worn romantic-comedy cliches. All he's done is add a phallic twist. In lieu of anything insightful, Bad Johnson gives us one joke – Rich's penis becomes a person – and then repeats it over and over for ninety minutes. It stops being amusing after about five.

The performances fail to liven things up. Cam Gigandet (Twilight, Burlesque) lacks charisma here, and he's unable to provide any insight into Rich's mentality beyond the fact that he's incessantly horny. Nick Thune, as the member in question, is even less effective. R.P. is supposed to be annoying, which the actor most certainly nails, but he's also supposed to be funny. Thune just doesn't have the kind of presence needed to pull this role off. R.P. needed to be played by someone who's a comedic force of nature, a Jack Black or a Danny McBride. An actor with an outsized personality would have brought edge and energy to the part, while perhaps simultaneously providing some kind of comic perspective. You'd think a penis that becomes a human would have much to say on the subject. Not in this movie.

Directed by Huck Botko (whose previous film, The Virginity Hit, is even worse), Bad Johnson builds to a clumsily-staged, action-heavy finale that fails to capitalize on the one clever tool Rich has in his arsenal to fight back against the penis that's trying to steal his girlfriend. Then again, missed opportunities are all over the place in this movie. There's a clever comedy to be made from the premise, although no one involved in the making of Bad Johnson seems to know how to do it. In the end, it's nothing more than the cinematic equivalent of an 11-year-old boy trying to make his buddies laugh by repeating the word “penis” again and again.

( out of four)

Bad Johnson is unrated, but contains strong sexual content and adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

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