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'Wild Things': Mischief of All Kinds

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 1998

  Movie Critic

Wild Things
Neve Campbell and Denise Richards star in "Wild Things." (Columbia)

John McNaughton
Kevin Bacon;
Matt Dillon;
Neve Campbell;
Theresa Russell;
Denise Richards;
Daphne Rubin-Vega;
Robert Wagner;
Bill Murray
Running Time:
1 hour, 46 minutes
For sexual innuendo, violence, profanity and indecent interest in teenage girls
The French call it nostalgie de la boue, meaning nostalgia for the mud. I call it the need to wallow. Now and then, darn it, enough with world peace, a cure for cancer and compassion for the poor. I need slime! I need scum! I need sleaze!

Did somebody say "Wild Things"?

This is a neo-noir along femme fatale lines, with a hint of child molestation thrown in for spice. The femmes fatales are about 17. If you feel distinctly uncomfortable when asked to respond sexually to teenagers, then this is not the movie for you.

Matt Dillon plays a high school guidance counselor in steamy Florida (the director, John McNaughton, has fun cutting away to suggestive images of hungry gators). He's the most popular teacher at Blue Bay High, where every female student has a body made for sin and a mouth made for pouting and a look so come-hither no man could not go yon. The movie makes you feel as if you've invaded some dirty old man's fantasies. Unclean!

When one of these over-sexualized children – Denise Richards, of "Starship Troopers" – accuses Dillon of rape, he's investigated by a dour cop (Kevin Bacon), stripped of his job and put on trial. So quickly that you know more twists will follow, that case falls apart, Dillon sues for libel and is suddenly $8 million richer.

Well, I'll spare you a twist-by-twist synopsis to leave some room for coverage of Washington, D.C., in today's newspaper. The movie is a plot-o-rama, a revelation machine. Every damn thing turns out to be something else, then that thing changes. Finally the twists come so fast they leave you dizzy, and there're even six twists or so left over for the credits!

The movie is as tawdry as someone else's lingerie, yet not without a certain prurient watchability. Though if any male high school teachers are caught in the audience, I suggest instant exile to the U.S. Marine Corps. It's that kind of movie.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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