"Skin Deep" is the latest from Blake Edwards, who, 25 years ago, gave us such hilarious farces as "The Pink Panther," "A Shot in the Dark," "The Party" and "The Great Race." More recently, however, he has been rather self-indulgent in his midlife crisis/anti-Hollywood ravings, through films such as "10," "S.O.B." and "That's Life!"
"Skin Deep" is cut from the same cloth and will doubtless be listed in future film history books under "outrageous" for its use of a glow-in-the-dark prophylactic sight gag that is as raunchy and tasteless as it is unfunny.
The story is about a rich, famous novelist (described by other characters as having won a Pulitzer Prize and being "Faulkner's heir-apparent," no less), played by John Ritter (best known for the TV series "Three's Company" and the current "Hooperman"). He's suffering from writer's block and is on the verge of losing his wife because he can't stop drinking and womanizing, not necessarily in that order.
Most of the movie is made up of vignettes that chronicle Ritter's sexual encounters with a variety of women, all airheads, dolts or simpletons. His wife (Alyson Reed, of "A Chorus Line") seems brighter until the fadeout, which tries to wrap things up far too neatly and ultimately torpedoes any credibility the film might otherwise have achieved.
"Skin Deep" is not without its amusing moments. Ritter is an excellent physical comedian and has numerous opportunities to display his comic timing (despite his penchant for vulgarity, Edwards remains the single best slapstick director in the business). But the movie is so relentless in its pursuit of redundant themes and self-pity that it wears the audience down.
If you're in the mood for something really tasteless, this is the film to see. But despite the laughter that sometimes surrounded me at the screening I attended, I felt nothing but repulsion for Ritter's character and Edwards' exploitation of women.
"Skin Deep," which seems an apt title, is a hard R-rated film, with considerable sex, nudity, profanity, vulgarity and some violence and drugs.