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Volume 90, Issue 77
Tuesday, February 11, 1997
Leguizamo just won't bug off
Gazette file photo
QUITE A STRETCH. John Leguizamo tries to convince us of his slapstick comedy skills, but loses his footing in The Pest.
Directed by Paul Miller
Starring John Leguizamo and Jeffrey Jones
At Wellington 8, 7:25 and 9:30 p.m.
Someone should have hunted down and killed this insect of a movie before it hit the big screen. Perhaps with a giant fly swatter.
Award-winning comedian John Leguizamo stars as Pestario Vargas, a witty con man who can take on almost any personality at the drop of a hat and gets scammed into a phony college scholarship contract by a German hunter named Gustav (Jeffrey Jones, Ferris Bueller's Day Off). The $50,000 contract is actually an agreement to allow Gustav to hunt down and kill Vargas to add his head to the hunter's large trophy case, filled with the head of every ethnicity in the world except a Latin American.
The rest of the movie is then spent watching Gustav chase down Pestario, who, incidentally, needs the $50,000 to pay off debts owed to Miami's illustrious Scottish mob for a failed scam.
The movie is essentially an Ace Ventura Pet Detective clone only this one degrades into even sillier comedy sequences than the aforementioned picture.
Case in point: While being hunted, Vargas happens upon a snake which he promptly picks up, fakes a struggle with and then uses as skipping rope and a double-bass string. This is unsophisticated comedy at its worst as it really did not fit Leguizamo's character's witty personality displayed throughout the rest of the film.
Most of the better comedy in the film is verbal, like Leguizamo's insults towards other characters and his quick tongue in talking his way through tough situations. This is evidenced by his attempt to keep the one job he actually has as a Chinese food delivery boy using a sob story about his dead duck, a favourite dish in the Chinese restaurant.
Also lacking on the sophisticated side are the opening frames, which feature Leguizamo doing a series of impressions as he sings about his life while in the shower. The impressions were childish in nature, making it seem right off the top that the film is geared toward a juvenile audience.
Leguizamo's performance is borderline melodramatic in several places, taking away from his character's true personality. If the sequences of wild physical comedy, like the snake scene, were toned-down in favour of further exploration of the chameleon aspect of The Pest, this movie would have been a lot funnier.
Another thing a Scottish mob in Miami? A bold attempt to make light of organized crime and humourous in principle, but the idea is degraded by the use of bagpipes and kilts as uniforms for the group, led by none other than a guy named Angus (Charles Hallahan).
One comedic aspect that works is Gustav's troubled son, Himmel (Edoardo Ballerini), a stereotypical homosexual who blames his problems on his father. The innuendo created by the character adds an element of sophistication to the film, bringing it from a bad children's movie to a bad adolescent-oriented film.
A similar feat is accomplished by one of Pest's friends, Chubby (Aries Spears), who spends a lot of the movie pondering such deep adolescent thoughts such as whether or not Pest or himself would make love to a willing space-alien woman if she possessed certain physical characteristics.
However, despite the film's con man motif, the movie itself is the biggest scam of all. Do not fall victim to another Hollywood ploy and see The Pest, because like the effect millions of mosquitoes have on Canadians every summer, this movie will make you want to buzz-off somewhere far from the theatre.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997