Review: Dudes let it all hang out in overlong, poorly timed ‘Welcome to the Men’s Group’
“Welcome to the Men’s Group” has perhaps the most full-frontal male nudity ever in a mainstream movie. If that sounds at all cool, think again: It’s just one of many irritating, self-indulgent, faux-provocative bits in actor-director-co-writer (with Scott Ben-Yashar) Joseph Culp’s interminable yakfest.
A monthly men’s support group, set at the Westside L.A. trophy house of lawyer Larry (Timothy Bottoms), finds seven longtime members and a new guy (Mackenzie Astin) naval-gazing about work, women, sex, fathers, kids, secrets and more. That is, when they’re not scarfing bagels, engaging in primal or spiritual bonding rituals, or raucously fighting.
Their disparate issues vary in gravity: Larry’s depressed wife has taken off, the manic Carl (an over-the-top Stephen Tobolowsky) seems suicidal, macho Eddie (Terence J. Rotolo) is freaked about becoming a dad, college professor Mike (Culp) battles sex addiction, the goofily Zen-like Fred (David Clennon) has co-habitation anxiety, and so on.
But the endless sharing and chaotic conflicts that ensue among these largely uninviting men prove more tedious than convincing, with flashback bits that are more redundant than enlightening. At least they get us out of Larry’s house.
The capable cast (including Ali Saam and Phil Abrams) is certainly game; too bad it’s not in the service of more nuanced and engaging material.
As for the embarrassingly contrived and, er, extended mass “birthday suit” sequence, less would have been decidedly more.
‘Welcome to the Men’s Group’
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills
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