My Boyfriend's Back

Touchstone Pictures attains the nadir of this summer season (and probably the entire year) with Bob Balaban's My Boyfriend's Back, an idiotic offbeat comedy about an obsessive teenage love. Lacking any redeeming quality, it's a matter of days before this tasteless pic is buried without a trace in the sands of Hollywood.

My Boyfriend's Back is so moonbeam silly and so embarrassingly offensive–to the ear and to the eye–that it's hardly worth talking about. Still, for the record: scripter Dean Lorey uses the concept of a fairy tale–a kind of reworking of “Beauty and the Beast”–setting his quirky fantasy in a white-picket fenced small-town, which is meant to look like a Norman Rockwell painting with a touch of David Lynch.

Missy (Tracy Lind), the most attractive and desirable girl of her class has a b.f. (Matthew Fox), but she is obsessively pursued by Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery), a shy day-dreaming classmate whose ultimate desire is to take her to the prom. In order to prove his sacrificial love and heroic valiance, Lowery stages a robbery at the convenience store where Lind is working so that he can save her life. But ill-conceived caper backfires and he loses his life. The relentless Lowery then comes back from the dead–as a frail and decaying zombie–to successfully pursue his lifelong odyssey.

Napkin-thin pic starts falling apart in the first reel, as soon as Lowery is buried, and then keeps on unraveling in an unremitting stream of false notes, which includes body parts falling off, cannibalism, vampirism, mob-lynching, sci-fi laboratory experiments, supernatural effects, etc, etc.

Originally titled Johnny Zombie, pic fails even on its own terms–it's basically a series of second-hand, overcooked comic sketches. Almost every scene is shamelessly “borrowed” from other pics, the most obvious of which is a cheap lifting of the classic encounter between James Mason and Warren Beatty in the l978 fantasy Heaven Can Wait.

Bob Balaban's fledgling direction repeats ideas and jokes more effectively used in his l989 horror comedy Parents, which was also thin-plotted but at least managed a level of black humor and an interesting visual style–elements that are totally missing from his new pic. It also doesn't help that as soon as comedy picks up any momentum or shows signs of humor, Balaban resorts to voice-over narration or cutesy comic strips that are actually read by the characters.

The real mystery is how helmer Balaban managed to recruit his talented ensemble of actors–many from the New York stage. Pic is a wasteland for everyone, from Andrew Lowery to Mary Beth Hurt and Edward Herrmann as his parents, Austin Pendleton as the crazy doc, Bob Dishy as the gravedigger, Cloris Leachman as the Zombie expert, and Paxton Whitehead as the judge in heaven.

Attention must be paid when a picture is as aggressively horrible as My Boyfriend's Back, yet another proof that just because an idea is outrageously audacious doesn't necessarily mean it's good–or funny. With a running time of only 84 minutes, pic is 84 minutes too long.