Blake Edwards's Skin Deep is that most idiosyncratic type of movie that contributes to a prominent director's ouevre without adding much distinction (except the invitation of autobiographical analysis). This is low-gear, unpolished, late-period Edwards. But the lovable coot follows every goofy idea that comes to his mind, which is--even when the film falls thuddingly flat--strangely endearing.
In an undecisive bid for stardom, John Ritter plays Zach, an alcoholic author who, when the film begins, gets caught in a compromising position by two of his other lovers, including his wife. Instantly separated, Zach continues his wooing and boozing even while lamenting to Barney the bartender (Vincent Gardenia) and psychologist Michael Kidd (yes, the choreographer of Guys and Dolls and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) that he's miserable and might even consider--gulp!--a lifestyle change. The film, then, is an uneasy hodge-podge--usually in short, scattershot scenes--of silly sexual misadventures and neurotic navel-gazing.
Edwards throws too many balls out (if you'll pardon the expression), so doesn't do justice to as many characters as he thinks he can. This leads to occasional dead-end diversions like a skimpy, mechanical arc for Robert Donat's gay agent that provides an obvious emotional foil for Zach at a convenient point in the story. Edwards also indulges some ill-advised gags, like Zach's "showing off with big words" and Zach and Barney warbling off key (not as funny or lovable as Edwards thinks). He's still capable of surprising, momentary comic filigrees of language no one else could pull off, but his best choices are gonzo and visual. The infamous glow-in-the-dark condom scene is one (measured end to end, as it were, running about four minutes), as are the physical comedy payoffs to a dubious electro-shock therapy scene and a beachside reflection ("There is a God! And he's a gag-writer!").
Ritter shows he's talented (especially in his Clouseau-worthy, spastic, post-electrocution dance), but neither he nor Edwards can smoothly stitch the comedic and dramatic tissue together. The women in Zach's life provide some memorable moments, especially erstwhile American Gladiator Raye Hollitt (a.k.a. "Zap"), whose buff body understandably inspires equal measures of lust and fear in Zach. But we never get to see or understand the attraction of Zach's conventional lifestyle option--with a snarky stepson and boring wife--other than the fact that it's not his alcoholic, womanizing one (from which the film gladly derives all of its entertainment value). Still, if Edwards films or disposable sex romps are generally your cup of tea, Skin Deep is worth a once-over.
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