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SENSELESS

by: Michael Dequina

Marlon Wayans is a very talented physical comedian, and it is that gift that brings Senseless moments of life. Alas, moments are simply that, moments, which are not enough to lift this fantasy/comedy above its one-joke premise.

Granted, that one joke is initially amusing. When Wayans's Darryl Witherspoon, an economics major at Stratford University, hits some dire financial straits, he becomes a guinea pig for a experimental drug that heightens all five senses. After some initial side effects and problems controlling his superhuman senses, Darryl learns to enjoy the benefits of his abilities and uses them to land a position at a highly esteemed corporate firm.

At this point, the film sounds more like Senseful than Senseless, but through some turns of the plot, Darryl finds himself only able to use four of his five senses at once, essentially leaving him--yes--senseless. This sets up some showcase moments for Wayans's gift for physical comedy, especially when Darryl loses his sense of feeling and his body goes completely, hilariously limp. But these gags, and the gag behind the entire movie, quickly grows stale. Once Darryl is shown without the use of all of the senses, instead of exploring any new comic territory, director Penelope Spheeris and screenwriters Greg Erb and Craig Mazin take the easy way out and simply recycle each form of senselessness. Wayans approaches each go-round with gusto, but by this point he's simply treading water for the rest of the film's unfunny duration.

Senseless would not be as problematic as it is if it didn't strive to be anything more than a comic trifle. However, the raucous and often raunchy comedy is wrapped in a blanket of bogus sincerity. Darryl goes through the experiment in order to help his cash-strapped family, and this "serious" angle seems to come from an entirely different movie. Unlike Wayans's last starring vehicle, the surprisingly effective (and serious) The 6th Man, the "emotional" content of Senseless is forced and unconvincing. Any attempt at anything more substantial than broad comedy fizzles--Darryl's romance with Janice (Tamara Taylor), a young woman who yearns for a man who is true to himself, does not generate sparks of any kind.

Once his WB television sitcom The Wayans Bros. comes to an end, the genuinely funny Marlon Wayans has a promising big-screen future ahead of him. But if he continues to associate himself with projects as flat as Senseless, his film career could go the way of his once-promising older brother, Damon, who is now set to make his comeback--on television.

RATING: ** (out of *****)

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