Rated R - Running time: 1:28 - Released 2/20/98

Marlon Wayans and David Spade must feel really good right now. In this period of Oscar nominations when some of the best films of last year are still in theaters, they're starring in the first really terrible film of 1998. The strange thing is that both of these actors are very talented and have forged strong reputations for comedy on television. But both are wasted on this tripe, and one wonders why they would even sign on to such a project: what are they, strapped for cash?

The plot of Senseless, penned by Greg Erb and Craig Mazin, is thus: Economics major Darryl Witherspoon (Wayans) needs cash, and though he's dedicated, his grades at Stratford University are not good enough to get him the coveted Assistant Analyst job at the highbrow investment firm of Smythe Bates. His snotty, spoiled classmate Scott Butler (Spade) seems a shoo-in for the position, since his dad is well-connected with the firm.

Darryl sees an ad for a scientific study involving an experimental drug, and jumps at the chance to be a guinea pig for money. The job pays $3,000, and all he has to do is inject this green stuff into his gluteus. The drug is supposed to enhance all five of his senses, and despite some uncomfortable side effects, it does just that. Suddenly Darryl has super hearing, super vision, super smell, etc., etc. Can anyone guess what happens? I'll give you five bucks if you can't figure it out.

Sorry, you lose: predictably, he uses his super senses to impress the powers that be, get the job, best the brat, and even get the girl: a too-classy-for-this-movie young co-ed named Janice (Tamara Taylor). But of course he gets greedy and overdoses, and that's what gets him in trouble. The side effects go into overdrive and threaten to blow his cover, and his trendy roommate Tim (Matthew Lillard) thinks he's shooting heroin and seeks professional help, further buggering up Darryl's plans.

There must be some sweat shop in Hollywood where illegal immigrants are paid less than minimum wage to crank out bad scripts in order to fill out the season between the real movies. Despite a rather humorous characterization by Lillard and a few clever cracks by Spade, there is little here to inspire even a chuckle. Wayans's overdone physical comedy is energetic, but seldom rises above bathroom humor and facial contortions. This is not helped by director Penelope Spheeris. Bits that are funny for a few seconds are played until we are thinking, "Okay, okay, get on with it!" And the sappy relationship between Darryl and Janice, and also between him and his single mother (Esther Scott) is laid on with a trowel.

Spade seems out to lunch in this movie, like he's just going through the motions. I would attribute it to the loss of his best friend Chris Farley, but this movie was shot before Farley died. Maybe he just realized too late what a turkey he was involved in. *

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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