What would it be like for someone to have their senses heightened to the extreme? That is the question asked in Senseless (Dimension Films), a hilarious new comedy starring Marlon Wayans (The Sixth Man).
Wayans may have started his career with a tad of nepotism, but if this film is any indication, his name soon will be mentioned without reference to his brothers. With his boyish charm and unwavering innocence, Wayans demonstrates considerable potential at both physical comedy and sincere acting.
Comparisons to Eddie Murphy are not exaggerated – but Wayans’ style of comedic pacing and irreverent showmanship blend his talents beyond rehashing old material.
While Wayans may be adept at creating original parodies, this story presents nothing new. Senseless tells the tale of Darryl Witherspoon, a college student having problems earning enough money to help support his family back home. So when he learns of a new science experiment that pays its participants, he is first to volunteer.
Darryl is given a drug designed to enhance all five of the senses. He is warned not to increase the dosage or the consequences could be severe. As per the Scriptwriting 101 handbook, Darryl proceeds to dismiss this warning, and the fun begins. At any give time, one of his five senses will completely disappear.
The film is directed by Penelope Spheeris, whose career is a mix of success – Wayne’s World – and utter failure – Black Sheep. Here she lands somewhere in the middle, using a young cast to pull off a predictable story laced with fun gags and sophomoric comedy.
David Spade (Tommy Boy) is thrown into the mix as Darryl’s frat boy nemesis. Tamara Taylor, best known for her previous work on “Party of Five,” is delightful as the love interest. And heading the supporting cast is Matthew Lillard (Scream), who plays Darryl’s strange-but-caring roommate with a fetish for body piercing. Lillard adds his own witty humor to the batter, mistaking his roommate’s condition for a severe heroin addiction.
But the textbook story is just a backdrop for the outrageous, and at times crude, situations Wayans meets. The film does not shy away from unconventional and seemingly obscene humor as Wayans finds himself in one embarrassing situation after another. From masturbation and bathroom jokes, to humor within the confines of the neighborhood sperm bank – almost no taboo is left unspoken.
It may make audience members cringe, but they will be laughing at the same time. Senseless is not a great film, but it is a great time at the movies. With the countless inane attempts at comedy these days from Hollywood, it is refreshing to see a new face giving his all just to make the audience laugh. In the end, isn’t that what it’s about anyway?Senseless opens Friday.3 Hatchets
This article appeared in the February 19, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.