Senseless - *

Senseless is a prime example of what can happen when you try to push a one-joke concept a bit too far. Director Penelope Spheeris is no stranger to this, having subjected audiences before to such tortures as The Beverly Hillbillies.

Marlon Wayans stars as Darryl Witherspoon, a college senior vying for a lucrative job at a prominent brokerage. However, he lacks the advantages of his chief opposition, Scott Thorpe (David Spade, in the smarmy sort of role he can deliver in his sleep): an athletic record, sponsorship by a fraternity, and, most of all, a wealthy family to back him up. In fact, Darryl has to work at four jobs simply to make ends meet.

But there may be a light at the end of that tunnel. He signs up as a human guinea pig in a neurological experiment run by the university’s Dr. Wheedon (Brad Dourif). As a result, his senses are magnified tenfold. Using his newfound abilities, he sets himself in complete pursuit of the job (unaware that there may be some disadvantageous side-effects to having super senses).

Naturally, Marlon Wayans plays this comedy at full throttle, giving Jim Carrey-ish amounts of physical humor. The problem is, aside from a few genuinely inspired bits, there’s not much that’s funny here. The film has it’s one central gag, and pads out the rest of its length with rather obvious lowbrow humor.

There obviously wasn’t much thought put into the plot. The entire job selection process is completely ridiculous. I mean, why the emphasis on extra-curricular activities if the entire job is going to come down to a single-elimination quiz anyhow? And is this the only job being offered to economics majors this semester?

To give it credit, Senseless does try to create a secondary joke with Darryl’s roommate, Tim LaFlour (Matthew Lillard). Apparently, he is supposed to be faddish, but the film never does anything with him, leaving him in a piercing phase throughout the movie. His “intervention” scenes with Darryl, however, do provide a rare, and welcome, laugh.

And then there’s the love interest which is always pathetically tacked onto comedies like this one. In this case, the object of Darryl’s amor is Janice (Tamara Taylor), a fellow student who won’t have anything to do with Darryl until he gains his super-senses. Needless to say, the romance is completely extraneous, and adds little to the film.

This is a film that desperately needed something else. Be that a good plot, more jokes (or simply funnier ones), or a strong character or two, anything would have helped Senseless get off the ground. As it is, all the manic exuberant mugging in the world can’t help Marlon Wayans get this one off the ground.

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