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"An American Werewolf in Paris" bites.

By Michael Henningsen

JANUARY 5, 1998:  What I remember most about John Landis' 1981 comedy/horror classic, An American Werewolf in London, is that its star, David Naughton (most widely known at the time as the cute dancing Dr. Pepper pitch boy) lost his commercial contract with Dr. Pepper because he bared his white ass in the film. But I also have various recollections of the original film (on which An American Werewolf in Paris is loosely based) being wickedly funny and frightening as hell. One could say the same of the latest entry into the werewolf film category, but it would be a big, hairy lie.

Tom Hanks/David Naughton love-child Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do) stars as Andy, the geekish, well-meaning sensitive guy who saves beautiful maidens and unwittingly gets his ass chewed by a werewolf, thus becoming one himself. Andy is part of some ridiculous macho excursion on which he and his travel buddies, Brad (Vince Vieluf) and Chris (Phil Buckman) try to out-do each other in increasingly stupid displays of manhood. Andy's pièce de résistance, it turns out, is to bungee jump from the Eiffel Tower at night. Enter the beautiful and mysterious Serafine (Julie Delpy) who happens to be bent on killing herself by jumping off the Eiffel Tower sans bungee cord. Andy tries unsuccessfully to convince her that life is worth living and winds up jumping after her in the first of two ridiculous rescue scenes. He manages to grab her ankle just before impact, laying her to rest on the ground just before snapping back up, courtesy of his bungee cord, and bouncing his head (for the first of many hilarious bonks) on a steel girder.

From here, Andy drags his friends on a madcap search for "the perfect girl," only to be alternately snubbed and teased. On the stooges' second visit to Serafine's manor, they meet up with Claude, quite obviously a werewolf, who invites them to a party at Club de la Lune (get it?). They go (Brad leaves before the fun begins for some inexplicable reason), get locked in with a bunch of other stupid Americans and puking French transients and, just before the gracious hosts transform into gracious, flesh-eating werewolves, Serafine shows up sending Andy running for his life down the sewer. Dipshit Chris follows but is quickly disposed of. Andy makes it out alive but not before being bitten.

When he awakens, Andy finds himself in Serafine's home where she tries to explain to him that he is now a werewolf by taking her shirt off and offering him a glass of pureed human hearts. Hell, if a shirtless Julie Delpy told me I was a friggin' midget, I'd do my best to look as short as possible. Andy, though, is not so easily convinced and flees. It isn't until he actually turns into a werewolf that he believes he is one, a period during which he kills a bimbo and one of the film's countless bumbling cops.

By now, Andy's undead friend Chris and the bimbo are appearing to him on a regular basis, urging him to kill the werewolves that have doomed them to walk the earth until the perpetrating creatures are dead. Problem is, Andy is the perpetrating creature in the bimbo's case, and he's just not ready to die--at least not until he kills Serafine and eats her heart to make himself human again, which he doesn't particularly want to do, either.

When Andy is kidnapped by Claude and his gang of thugs, Serafine rescues him once again, and the horror of a weak subplot begins. As it turns out, Serafine's half-mangled father has been working on a serum intended to prevent the transformation from beautiful French girl to hairy-ass wolf-thing. But the serum works in reverse, causing instant transformation. Claude and his legion of doom steal the samples and arrange another "party" for "Americans only." Naturally, the "good" werewolves, Andy and Serafine, show up to try to prevent the feast. A few bumbling cops, more sewer footage and head bonks later, Andy is faced with either killing Serafine or enabling more sewer footage. He chooses the latter and eventually winds up on a subway car with Claude. Much gnarling and gnashing ensues.

I won't give away the ending, but trust me when I say it's pretty stupid. An American Werewolf in Paris has its moments, but it pales in comparison to the original. Far less attention is paid here to the actual transformation from human to werewolf, scenes that made the London version visually stunning. The subtle humor employed in the original--Naughton's undead sidekick appears in various states of decomposition, body parts falling off--has been reduced to slapstick nonsense in this one to the extent that it makes one embarrassed for the film's actors. An American Werewolf in Paris isn't all bad, but it's quite a bit more like watching the Keystone Cops chase the Three Stooges down the sewers of Paris than it is like watching a horror film. A disappointment to say the least.

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