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    Games People Play

    Leer factor

    If you're hot and uninhibited, you had a chance to get on "Games People Play," a reality-TV concept for the big screen that starts fun but turns predictable by the now-familiar standards of its small-screen predecessors.


    Flip on your television set during prime time these days and you'll be hard pressed to find anything but a reality show gumming up the airwaves: "Survivor," Fear Factor," "Average Joe," "Average Joe II: Hawaii," "Joe Millionaire," "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette," "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancˇ," "The Apprentice." Thank God for the "Antiques Roadshow" is all I can say!

    Directed by: James Ronald Whitney.
    Cast: Joshua Coleman, Dani Marco, David Maynard, Sarah Smith, Elisha Wilson.
    Cinematography: Neil Stephens.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Milking this current fascination with real people doing really dumb things for big bucks for creative — and comedic — effect comes James Ronald Whitney's "Games People Play" (aka "Games People Play: New York," since there appears to be a "Games People Play: Hollywood" in the offing), a mockumentary-type spoof of contemporary culture that pitches itself as a faux pilot to network programmers looking for their next "Temptation Island": six contestants, three men and three women, vie for the chance to win $10,000 in the next reality game show, "Games People Play."

    All comers must be in shape, attractive, and uninhibited — i.e., willing to strip themselves of both their clothes and their emotions, as all are put through their risquˇ paces, performing sex-related stunts in public and private while having their personal skeletons yanked from their closets by the reality-show equivalents of Dr. Joyce Brothers and Bob Barker.

    Games People Play  
    As "Games People Play" gets going, Whitney places a casting call in a Tribeca newspaper and hundreds show up — this is New York, after all — each sporting 8x10 glossies and fascinating stories to tell. The throng is quickly whittled down to 249 possible candidates based on looks alone (the aged, overweight, and just plain creepy are tossed aside without much hesitation) before the auditions begin in earnest, with each hopeful asked to perform in front of a green screen, opening themselves up emotionally by articulating a shocking truth from their past.

    Soon enough, through the magic of cinema (or, more accurately, the magic of rapid-fire editing of cheesy digital video), the crowd has been reduced to three men (a gigolo, a Tourette's Syndrome sufferer, a young man whose mother was killed in a car crash when he was very young) and three women (a bulimic, a victim of sexual abuse, a young woman whose father was murdered when she was very young). David, Joshua, Scott, Dani, Elisha, and Sarah (respectively) then compete in a series of "Candid Camera"-styled situations that involve a lot of playful, gratuitous nudity coupled with equal amounts of soul-searching during their hotel-room-staged interviews. It's all very tongue-in-cheek for the most part and, like its reality-TV counterparts, features a climactic twist (which, if you're even a little bit sharp, you can see coming at the 27-minute mark — imagine Donald Trump dropping his shorts while announcing to his Versacorp/Protˇgˇ contestants that there never really was any job opening to begin with).

    But I enjoyed the film better in the early going, during the tryouts, when the participants were eager and candid and immodest and Whitney's filmmaking technique was less self-conscious. Once "Games People Play" (the game show) begins proper, it's not a whole lot different from what Allen Funt was doing 34 years ago with "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?"

    The hook here, of course, is that the better you are at laying bare your soul (and accompanying body parts), the better your chances of walking away with the cash.

    MARCH 12, 2004

    Reader comments on Games People Play:

  • coplain   from paulina rodgers, May 13, 2007
  • Re: coplain   from N/A, Jul 29, 2007

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