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Head Over Heels

Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Monica Potter, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah O'Hare, Shalom Harlow, China Chow, Ivana Milicevic, Tomiko Fraser

(Universal Studios; 2001)

Heads Up

Beware films packing the one-two punch of Freddie Prinze, Jr. as romantic lead and supermodels as objects of toilet humor. I’m thinking of last year’s woeful Boys and Girls, in which Prinze is Claire Forlani’s true love and an end credits sequence features Jason Biggs (who has played Prinze’s college roommate in the rest of the film) living out his fantasy of being trapped in a dressing room full of farting supermodels.


Freddie Prinze, Jr. is well known for his teen and college romantic comedies. In Head Over Heels, he’s graduated to twenty-something adulthood, sort of. The film pairs him with Monica Potter (whom I’ll get to in a minute), and then piles on top of this cute-couple plot a series of sex-and-fart jokes, involving a Great Dane who likes to hump women, a little old lady with a sex drive, and a group of prat-falling supermodels. These supermodels must also endure extended poo-poo encounters, by smell and actual contact. I suppose you might chalk such humor up to taking pleasure in bringing supermodels down to human level, but really, it is a mightily unpleasant pleasure to take.


Head Over Heels is a next step in lowbrow “teen”-aimed humor (and I use the term “teen” euphemistically, like the marketers do)—following like American Pie, Scary Movie, Dude, Where’s My Car?, South Park, and MTV’s outrageous skater-comedy series Jackass—a humor that prides itself on extreme jokes, the more offensive and more bodily-fluids-focused, the better. Here, as in the teen comedies, the fluids tend to be excremental, but because the characters have been out of high school and even college for some time, they have jobs and supposedly some sense of the working world. And so, Prinze plays Jim Winston, a much-admired fashion executive who becomes the object of desire for Amanda Pierce (Potter). She appreciates fine objects, since she works—completely unbelievably—restoring Renaissance paintings at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. She’s apparently so skilled that her boss lets her make up a face to fill in on a smudgy Titian masterpiece, but at the same time, she’s so unprofessional that she drinks coffee over this same precious painting.


Amanda has an idea of the perfect guy, and when she first spots Jim, he appears to be it. She first meets him when the Great Dane he’s walking assaults her, and well, it’s love at first sight. Later, she espies him in his apartment, Rear Window-style, from her apartment, which she shares with four supermodels, airheaded Australian Candi (Sarah O’Hare), know-it-all Jade (Shalom Harlow), sultry Russian Roxanna (Ivana Milicevic), and practical-minded Holly (Tomiko Fraser). Bored, as models in movies tend to be, these models, who can have any men they want (men line up each night outside their apartment door for the chance to take them—as a group—to expensive dinners) decide to help Amanda catch her chosen one.


Trouble brews when Amanda is sneaking a peek at Jim one night and she sees him, apparently, savagely murder a girl with a baseball bat. Amanda and the models (who travel as kind of long-legged, short-skirted, perfectly made-up posse) make it their business to investigate Jim, which leads to many awkward situations. While you’re waiting for these predictable episodes to unfold, it may occur to you that Potter is familiar, even if you haven’t seen her in Con Air or Patch Adams. That’s because she is unnervingly like Julia Roberts, with similar vocal inflections, mannerisms, and nose. She is a bit shorter and she is blond, but somewhere along the line, she absorbed a few too many of Robert’s signature tics.


The film’s biggest surprise is that the models hold their own and on occasion, they are quite funny (Milicevic’s line readings—affecting an almost Garbo-as-Ninotchka-esque self-parodic gravity—are especially droll). But this is small comfort. Director Mark Waters, whose first feature, House of Yes (starring Prinze and Parker Posey), was almost too offbeat and challenging, has made a formula picture with precious little new to offer. Plainly inspired by How to Marry a Millionaire‘s proto-girl power theme and The Philadelphia Story‘s madcap physical comedy, Head Over Heels is in the end overwhelmed by its own Adam Sandler-style doo-doo pranks.

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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