Put it this way: "National Lampoon's Gold Diggers" makes "The Anna Nicole Show" look sophisticated.
Not only is there nothing thoughtful or interesting about this latest ultra-crass contribution to the Lampoon shelf, there's not even anything very funny. Gary Preisler's debut directing effort, co-written with rookie Michael Canale, is so pointless that it's unlikely to satisfy anyone -- including viewers who come to it just to survey the curves of Playboy model-turned-actress Nikki Ziering.
The pointlessness begins with our introduction to Cal, played by former "Boy Meets World" sitcom heartthrob Will Friedle, and Lenny, played by Chris Owen (The Shermanator of "American Pie"). These two directionless young men met as kids in an orphanage, co-worked a series of bad jobs, and have now landed in Southern California, where they need a plan to make money, fast.
Lenny tries mugging, but in one of the movie's few mildly amusing moments, he winds up snatching a prosthetic arm along with his first purse. The friends' next attempt at crime goes no better, and lands them in jail a second time when they mug elderly Mundt sisters Betty (Renee Taylor) and Doris (Louise Lasser). The sisters happen to be in desperate financial straights too, due to an eccentric uncle who's siphoned off their trust fund (daddy invented the first condom using a sausage casing) and left them in danger of losing their roomy estate.
Pretty soon Doris and Betty hit on the idea of marrying the young men so they can bump them off and use the insurance money to get out of debt. Meanwhile, Cal and Lenny -- who must have pilfered the wardrobe of Starsky and Hutch somewhere along the way -- hatch gold-digging plans of their own. The sisters should die soon of natural causes, but if not, the boys will help that process along.
Thus the couples enter into unholy matrimony and settle in for a rash of slapstick random killings, fart jokes, and tasteless scenes poking fun at the sexual appetites of seniors. The so-called humor is as stale as a line asking if the American dream comes with fries, and even though both Lasser and Taylor give it the old college try, it's hard to imagine there was enough money or desperation in the world to make this script look acceptable to either of the two veteran "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" actresses.
The amiable participation of Friedle and Owen, on the other hand, is entirely understandable, especially since Ziering shows up every now and then in a string bikini to play Cal's fantasy woman. They probably didn't complain that Preisler gave them little else to focus on.
Janice Page can be reached at email@example.com.
National Lampoons Gold Diggers
Directed by: Gary Preisler
Written by: Preisler and Michael Canale Starring: Will Friedle, Chris Owen, Renee Taylor, Louise Lasser, Nikki Ziering
At: Boston Common, suburbs
Running time: 90 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (crude and sexual humor, drug-related material)