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'Idle Hands': All Thumbs

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 1999

  Movie Critic

Idle Hands
Devon Sawa engages in hand-to-hand combat with his bloodthirsty appendage. (Columbia TriStar)

Rodman Flender
Devon Sawa;
Seth Green;
Jack Noseworthy;
Katie Wright;
Vivica Fox
Running Time:
1 hour, 33 minutes
Contains violence, gore, nudity, obscenity and misogyny
Let's talk about a movie called "Idle Hands," in which a teenager who has no ambition, smokes too much dope and watches beaucoup MTV, cringes in horror as his right hand becomes possessed and starts slaughtering victims left, right and center.

Let's talk about it quickly, because the thumbs of both my hands have gone similarly crazy. They're pointing downward and refuse to budge until I finish this review.

The forerunner of this kind of cheap horror flick is the doppelganger film, pioneered in Germany in the 1930s (an appropriately scary era and setting), in which a central character would find to his dismay that someone bearing his exact likeness was going around killing people and wreaking havoc.

That was then. Fast forward to 1999, where "Idle Hands" simply uses this motif (not a word the filmmakers would use) to induce horrified chuckles from as many teenagers as possible, with dark rock music blaring over the soundtrack.

Sure, it'll get some people guffawing some of the time. But even at its most numskull, couch-potato level, "Idle Hands" is a heavy-handed disappointment saturated in tired movie blood.

Anton (Devon Sawa) is a 17-year-old waste of suburban space, with his hand permanently attached to his TV tuner and earphones stuck to his head.

He is so plugged in and zoned out, it takes him two days to notice his parents (Fred Willard and Connie Ray) have been missing. The big clues: the knife he uses to slather mayonnaise on his salami sandwich is covered in blood. And the cat is slurping on a gory, unattached human eye.

Anton finds his slaughtered, headless parents and hastily summons his two, similarly wasted friends, Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson). It doesn't take long to realize Anton is the killer. Or more accurately, Anton's right hand.

The friends try to escape. But Mr. Hand has other plans for them. Mick gets a beer bottle shoved into his brain. And Pnub is decapitated by a flying circular saw blade. But guess what: Mick and Pnub come back from the dead. While Anton literally wrestles with his bad appendage to keep it from killing more people, his undead pals (one of them carrying his loose head around) hang out at his house, drinking and, of course, watching the tube.

Throw into this wearisome mix a romance between Anton and Molly (Jessica Alba), a beautiful girl next door who writes bad rock poetry. In what amounts to the film's funniest business – which is barely funny at all – Anton tries to make love with Molly, while his hand tries to kill her. If you think that's wacky, wait till Anton hacks off the offending hand, which then scuttles off and wreaks even more havoc, culminating in a "Carrie"-style ending at the prom where – Hey! Would you look at that! My thumbs have gone back to normal. I don't have to write another word.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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