I don't think there's a time IDLE HANDS could have been released that
would have made it a good film, but its unfortunate release at this
particular time makes it seem even more rancid. In the wake of the April
21st shootings at Littleton, Colorado's Columbine High School, pundits and
politicians have been holding forth on the desensitizing effects of
violence in our popular culture, particularly that which is aimed at
teenagers. The hard-core First Amendment advocate in me has approached
most of this talk as conservative rabble rousing, but there's no defending
something as brutally wrong-headed as IDLE HANDS. If this is what
contemporary adolescents want to see in the movies, we really are in
The plot, such as it is, centers on a 17-year-old named Anton Tobias
(Devon Sawa), whose life's goal is to lay around watching T. V. and
getting stoned with his buddies Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson).
Unfortunately for Anton, the devil will find work for idle hands to do, as
a malevolent spirit takes possession of his right hand and forces him to
kill his parents, Mick and Pnub. Then Mick and Pnub return from the dead
to provide wacky comic relief, convincing a freaked-out Anton that extreme
measures are required. That involves removing the offending appendage,
leaving five demonic digits free to wreak havoc at Anton's high school
Even on its most basic level, IDLE HANDS is either idiotic or
pandering, when it isn't both. Vivica A. Fox appears as a druid priestess
following the hand-possessing spirit's trail of mayhem, perhaps as some
sort of misguided spoof of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The nubile lead
actress (Jessica Alba) falls instantly for the slackerly Anton, naturally
even finding his wayward hand kinky. Naked breasts appear because, well,
that's what naked breasts do in teen-oriented films. The problem-solving
powers of marijuana are lauded to the heavens. Mick and Pnub are the only
two victims of Anton's to return from the grave -- even the internal logic
of the film's supernatural universe is fuzzy -- only to invite comparisons
to another horror comedy, John Landis' AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
And the gore, it raineth down like waters from the heavens. Only Seth
Green, with his wry delivery, offers a moment's entertainment amidst the
I'll head off the rebuttals of the "dude, relax, it's just a movie"
contingent at the proverbial pass: yes, it's supposed to be a horror
comedy, with its absurd excesses probably intentional to a certain extent.
The problem is that the horror and the comedy are not combined with a
knowing wink, but sequenced in a disconcerting fashion. First, someone is
killed in a horrific manner; then, someone makes a joke about the murder.
The numbing nonchalance of the commentary lends credence to the harshest
condemnations of media violence -- in this film, the ridicule isn't
directed at the conventions of horror films, but at the deaths of
teenagers. When characters in the film gather at a makeshift memorial to
two of Anton's victims, it's hard to suppress a shudder when images of
Columbine High School are still so fresh in our minds.
Of course it's a freakish coincidence that IDLE HANDS appears as it
does in the wake of that tragedy, and that any of the film's images bring
it to mind. It's harder to ignore turning straightforward carnage into
comedy. I'm not sure whether IDLE HANDS could have redeemed itself if it
actually had made a statement about the potential destructiveness of its
protagonists' lives of sloth instead of celebrating same, but at least
that would have been a nod to something beyond its audience's most
anti-social tendencies. This film is a bad idea at an even worse time,
little more than fuel for the fires of righteous indignation which,
unfortunately, are seeming a bit more righteous all the time.
On the Renshaw scale of 0 to 10 false i
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