Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ashton Kutcher's "Spread": A Movie Review

"I don't want to be arrogant... but I am an incredibly attractive man."

Thus begins Spread, starring Ashton Kutcher, the story of a man who is utterly vacuous but delightfully attractive. Hmmm, the story of Kutcher's life much? I kid, I kid, I’ve always enjoy Ashton; he’s attractive, charismatic and charming, but that charm can only go so far and, in Spread, it’s spread way too thin.

Set in a grotesque version of Los Angeles where everyone’s a gigolo or a gold-digger, Kutcher stars as Nikki, a homeless, jobless drifter who spends his life finding women to pleasure in return for food and shelter. All he wants is to enjoy their spread. Go ahead, let the entendres wash over you.

The film was written by Jason Dean Hall and it starts with a clear, biting voice that’s sardonic and engaging, but it quickly falls into American Gigolo or Shampoo clich├ęs while the film’s leads, Kutcher, Anne Heche, as Kutcher’s oft-naked sugar mama, and Margarita Levieva, a fellow hustler who wins Nikki’s cold heart, though it’s never clear why beyond the idea that men love the chase and both actors are handsome and libidinous, grow intensely unlikable.

Kutcher is pretty but flat, utterly lacking the quirky, adorable, goofball charm he projected in A Lot Like Love or That 70's Show. Levieva is window dressing without any substantial presence and Heche does her best to bring some semblance of reality to a character that was written to be an idiotic, permissive, pathetic cougar, but they all fail at making these people three dimensional. Thanks to puerile writing, lame performances and David Mackenzie’s bland, unimaginative direction, when each character reaches his or her rock bottom, it’s impossible to sympathize; rather their suffering can be written off as karmic retribution.

For those looking to justify Spread as a movie-going experience, the highlights you can look forward to are lots and lots of simulated sex featuring Kutcher, who also produced the film, and a bevy of beauties, especially Heche. That might make it worthy of a rental but it’s destined for fast-forward purgatory. Though he does a mean Kermit the Frog impression, one 30-second bit isn’t enough to salvage his performance or Halls’ belligerent screenplay.

I used to call The House of Sand and Fog "Bitch, Go Get an Apartment and Stop Whining." Spread could easily be renamed "Dude, Go Get a Job and Put Your Pants Back On (Minus the Suspenders)."

Grade: D-

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