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Robert Downey Jr.,
Natasha Gregson Wagner
With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.
Financial "Master of the Universe" Sherman McCoy sees his life unravel when his mistress Maria Ruskin hits a black boy with his car. When yellow journalist Peter Fallow enflames public opinion with a series of distorted tabloid articles on the accident, the case is seized upon by opportunists like Reverend Bacon and mayoral candidate D.A. Abe Weiss. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
Bonfires of the Vanities is a film drenched in flop sweat. I can recall no film that has tried so hard to be so unrelentingly outrageous, provocative and important, yet failed so consistently across the board. It is like a stand up comic who's not getting laughs, but can't leave the stage. The harder the film tries, the louder each attempt at a laugh results in a resounding thud. The desperation the film displays is so glaring it almost rouses pity for all those involved.
The film achieves laugh-out-loud status only twice. Once is in the sight of Geraldo Rivera playing an obnoxious, arrogant and amoral TV tabloid journalist -- which is funny only because he apparently doesn't realize he is playing himself. The other scene that deserves to be laughed at is the film's final "big moment," wherein the judge played by Morgan Freeman delivers the sanctimonious lecture about what morality is ("it's what your mama taught ya!"). The pomposity of the moment is insulting to the point of being absurd.
Yet, one must admit it is a noble effort. It does have a good, if poorly cast, band of actors, who try to make characters out of cardboard thin caricatures. The film looks professionally made and the little cinematic flourishes that director Brian DePalma just loves are apparent, if not particularly effective. But the film, which apparently wishes to be a commentary on modern morals and ethics, never arises above the level of cartoon. Satire requires style. Farce requires energy. Even sitcom requires timing. But the best Bonfires can muster is desperation. In the end, you don't want to laugh, you just want to turn away.
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