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Film review: Party Monster

Published: Thursday, Dec. 4 2003 3:01 p.m. MST

Memo to Macaulay Culkin: When your latest cinematic "comeback" attempt is a film like "Party Monster," maybe remaining in career limbo wasn't such a bad idea.

Saying that Culkin's first film role in nine years is a far cry from his work in the first two "Home Alone" movies is something of an understatement. Longtime fans will surely be horrified to see Culkin playing a sexually ambiguous, drug-addled, murderous character (the real-life Michael Alig, who was convicted of killing his dealer).

And they should be horrified.

Culkin's cringe-inducing, over-the-top star performance is about as embarrassing as it gets. In fact, the only thing that really makes this in-dubious-taste dark comedy watchable is the much better performance by Seth Green, who co-stars as Alig's former best friend, James St. James.

"Party Monster" attempts to show how Alig and St. James met and how the two of them then went on to become the toast of New York's "Club Kids" scene.

As the film begins, Alig is a shy Midwest boy who reinvents himself as a party promoter, with considerable help from a sympathetic club owner (Dylan McDermott). However, as he becomes more and more successful, his ego grows. And so does Alig's appetite — for drugs and for other pleasures of the flesh, which leads him to a series of self-destructive actions, including an attack on his dealer and former roommate (Wilson Cruz).

Co-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato made names for themselves with their rather colorful documentary "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." Their narrative filmmaking debut is less successful, though — considerably less successful.

For one thing, it all hinges on Culkin's lead performance, and too often his mincing, cartoonish turn as Alig is simply painful to watch. There's nothing really amusing or endearing about it. That leaves talented performers like Chloe Sevigny and McDermott foundering as they attempt to keep from laughing. About the only person who really seems to be trying here is Green, who at least

understands that playing characters like these requires a little bit of subtlety.

"Party Monster" is rated R for scenes of simulated drug use (methamphetamine, barbiturates, hallucinogens and other substances), occasional use of strong sexual profanity, crude slang terms and other sexual talk, violence (a bludgeoning) and brief gore. Running time: 98 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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