Joe Pesci's latest is an attempt to reconcile the strange duality of his movie-star status, a film that hopes to combine GoodFellas' explosive Mafia attitude with My Cousin Vinny's slapstick goofball humour. Unfortunately, the end result would have been better if writer Tom Schulman had resisted the temptation to direct it himself.
Squeaky-voiced Pesci is the best thing about 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag. Tommy Spinelli is the kind of short-fused Mafia foot-soldier he plays to perfection, whipping himself into an exasperated, gun-waving frenzy with each ridiculous turn of the plot. Similarly, seven-stone weakling David Spade excels as Pesci's frat-boy torture victim, recalling the superbly smug form he exhibited as Chris Farley's stooge in Tommy Boy. It's these scenes, which detail Spinelli's adventures on the medical school campus, which provide 8 Heads with its comic highlights. But the remainder of the action, focusing on Charlie's timid attempts to keep his suspicious in-laws away from his gory package, degenerates into a Z-grade National Lampoon's Mexican Vacation.
As Charlie's girlfriend, Kristy Swanson gets little to do apart from gaze reproachfully at the hugely miscast Andy Comeau, who just can't sell the audience on his panicky attempts to get rid of the rotting noggins. George Hamilton (Swanson's father), tries his tanned best to rescue this cliché-riddled nonsense, but he's undermined by Dyan Cannon's bad acting.
This is the kind of quirky project that would have been ideal for a pre-decline John Landis. But, as it is, Schulman's awkward direction emphasises his script's weaknesses rather than its few strengths. You just know a film's in deep trouble when most of its cast are out-acted by a bag of prosthetic heads.
This probably sounded like a great idea when it was pitched. But apart from Pesci and Spade's occasional hints at what might have been, this is a humdrum, amateur-night comedy which fails to live up to its Tarantino-esque promise of gag-spouting wiseguys and cadaver-slicing ultraviolence.