Set in a Catholic boys' school in 1960s Brooklyn, "Heaven Help Us" introduces a new genre -- the repressed teen sex comedy. Gone are the girls in the shower and the girls undressing and the girls besieged by panty raiders. In a form that is of the peeper, by the peeper and for the peeper, that doesn't leave a whole lot.
But this isn't Brooklyn -- this is Hollywood! So there's a Gang of Guys! And one of them's a Fat Genius (Malcolm Danare)! He's pitted against a Stud (Kevin Dillon)! Who challenges, but ultimately befriends, the New Kid in Town (Andrew McCarthy)! They're joined by a Chronic Masturbator (Stephen Geoffreys)! And a Fifth Guy (Patrick Dempsey), because if there weren't five guys, it wouldn't be a Gang!
With this yeasty setup, "Heaven Help Us" then proceeds as an exercise in imaginative sadism. So we see the fellas paddled on the palms, or locked in a closet, or made to hold textbooks aloft at arm's length for hours. Objecting to this is the House Idealist (John Heard), who argues with the Tough but Fair administrator (Donald Sutherland). The House Idealist is a regular guy who even hangs out in the soda fountain run by the Hard-Boiled Survivoress (Mary Stuart Masterson) who, of course, falls for the New Kid in Town.
This kind of thing comes straight out of the sausage grinder, and director Michael Winner is so obviously bored, he hardly bothers with it -- the movie is mostly long master shots, as if Winner were trying to run away from the scene. And only the most devout could forgive screenwriter Charles Purpura, who ladles on the kind of toilet humor that went out with Jack Paar.
With his winning smile and the look of an inquisitive rabbit, McCarthy has a charm that the other actors can play off; in their two scenes, he and Heard develop a vivid rapport. There should be more of them together but, well, it would distract you from The Gang.
Catholic education can be a fertile source of drama -- playwright Christopher Durang has made a lively career out of examining its fallout. But good ideas go to Hollywood and all return sounding the same -- watching "Heaven Help Us," you can almost hear the studio executives saying, "Yeah, it's sort of like 'Diner,' but with, you know, pews."