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Companion review for Top 10 Tom Hanks Films 1984 – 1989
Bachelor Party (Neal Israel, USA, 1984)
Dir. Neal Israel; starring Tom Hanks, Adrian Zmed, William Tepper, Tawny Kitaen
Bachelor Party was Tom Hanks’ follow-up to the smash-hit fantasy romance Splash. Both films were released in 1984. The film tracks the exploits of Hanks’ Rick and friends as they organise a drug-fuelled, sex-filled send-off for their best pal before getting hitched to town beauty Debbie (played by then newcomer Tawny Kitaen). Hanks, of course, is the bachelor for which the party is intended but things never go swimmingly with these sorts of things. Debbie’s ex-boyfriend is determined to spoil the festivities and get his old girl back, while Debbie herself, worried about Rick’s commitment to her, disguises herself as a hooker to check on her husband-to-be’s faithfulness. It all adds up to madcap fun and frivolity, with the 80’s most recognisable comic actor Tom Hanks asserting his arrival in Hollywood.
There’s a good summation of the film when, with the bachelor party in full swing, Rick declares his faithfulness to Debbie by asking the crowded party: “Have I had sex with anyone tonight”, to which the jubilant, intoxicated congregation reply in chorus “No!”. If you’re wondering if the film is for you consider the idea of a donkey having sex with a belly dancer – a close approximation of one of the film’s more outlandish scenes. Luckily, the donkey dies from a drug overdose before man meets beast – so to speak. Again, this might help you decide if the film is for you.
Bachelor Party isn’t concerned with detail however. Nor, indeed, is it too concerned with plot. Essentially, it’s a collection of skits and sketches, hung on the idea of a man’s right of passage into marriage through a hazy mirage of drugs, alcohol, and sex. Predictably, there are hits and misses, but more often than not the film delivers. It’s cut from the same cloth as John Landis’ Animal House and Bob Clark’s Porky’s, just without the former film’s soundtrack and the latter’s iconic shower room scene. However, Bachelor Party does have its own penis-inspired sex-gag when a Chippendale waiter is paid by Hanks’ group of friends to deliver his lengthy appendage to Debbie’s mother wrapped in a foot-long sandwich. Cue red faces and gasps of shock along with several tugs on the sandwich from Debbie’s mother – presumably to make sure the aforementioned appendage is definitely attached to her toned and exceedingly bronzed waiter.
This is the typical line of comedy the film concerns itself with. It’s the sort of humour born in the sniggers and giggles of twelve year old boys during their first sex education lesson when the teacher shows a diagram of the female sex organs. And it works more often than not thanks largely to likable characters, each infused with enough individuality to distinguish them from the crowd. Neal Israel, who writes and directs the film, allows Hanks’ inherent charm to maintain our focus as the various sub-plots (such as one friend who has his first unknowing introduction to a cross-dressing prostitute, while Debbie’s ex-boyfriend tries many ways to crash the party, and Debbie has to escape the attractions of a group of Asian businessmen) go on around him.
Bachelor Party is unrefined fun that sits nicely alongside the college antics of Animal House and Porky’s. Indeed, it could even serve as a sequel to either of these films as the characters enter their twenties and look to get hitched. Yet, the film’s biggest bonus is Tom Hanks. The Californian-born actor had only just broken onto the scene in 1984, yet his brand of comical behaviour and endearing wit is found to be already blossoming here. With Bachelor Party in the can, who would dare scoff at the idea he would become one of the eighties biggest stars.