(Warning: This review contains nudity!)
Imagine a randy, ridiculous Monty Python film with the famous troupe on vacation, replaced with Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton, and a half-asleep Tim Roth. It’s not a pretty picture, and “Virgin Territory” is a constant reminder that delicate tone and comedic heft should be placed in the assured hands of professionals, not handsome, young, marketable stars of dubious ability.
With the Black Death rampaging across Italy, young Lorenzo (Hayden Christensen) is trying to stay one step ahead of the plague and away from the villainous Gerbino (Tim Roth). Failing to secure his love Pampinea (Mischa Barton), Lorenzo instead seeks shelter at a convent of lusty nuns, playing mute to keep his job as a gardener. With Lorenzo away, Gerbino claims Pampinea as his own, which sends the bride-to-be off to find her missing lover, encountering further complication when her arranged marriage to a Russian count (Matthew Rhys) comes to fruition, kicking off a chase across the countryside.
Adapted from Giovanni Boccaccio’s elaborate “Decameron,” “Virgin” is a wildly miscalculated offering of bawdy behaviors and attractive medieval locations. It’s a dour renaissance festival brought to life by a terrible director and a cast of dreary actors, who prance boldly around the frame as though they have this amazing grasp on comedic delivery. Instead they bungle the entire enterprise, giving motivated Skinemax-like perversions a bad name with this laughably incompetent motion picture.
Opening with cartoon renderings of cherubs urinating into cups and breaking wind, “Virgin” announces proudly what type of experience is about to arrive. There’s no “Masterpiece Theater” pretense here, only a declaration of lewd entertainment. It’s a promise that’s kept by director David Leland (“Wish You Were Here”), who labors to maintain a tone of brazen sexuality throughout the picture, slashing through numerous opportunities for nudity and assorted heated responses that would typically appease the average hot-blooded viewer. If you’ve come to “Virgin” for a carnival of nudity, the film won’t fail you. Parading around the supporting cast (sorry Christensen and Barton fans) in various stages of undress, the feature actually achieves a certain appeal of the unexpected when it comes to copious displays of flesh.
However, a smorgasbord of bare breasts cannot conceal the film’s tonal mismanagement. Aiming for a blinding amorous feel, “Virgin” is rather embarrassing to watch; Leland attempts to snowball scenes of genital itch into a comedic whole, but cannot grasp the finer edges of farce or vulgarity. Perhaps the source material deftly wove together the absurd and the enticing, but Leland is not that sharp of a craftsman. Instead he botches the warm sensuality that he’s aiming for, or overcooks the silly stuff, best exemplified during a scene where two bosomy farm girls attempt to broadcast the sensual allure of cow teats to a pair of period-specific, slack-jawed Stiflers.
Certainly watching these actors attempt to master a cultured tongue is enough to end the movie there, but Leland rises above basic performance irritation with his baffling screenplay, which eventually falters when trying to elongate the focus to the numerous supporting roles. Also a problem is the film’s age (it was shot over three years ago), revealed through the deployment of irritating expository narration, and the anachronistic use of rap, reggae, and Euro-pop hits on the soundtrack. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that “Virgin” was touched by many post-production hands during its long journey to release.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), the “Virgin” DVD is an underwhelming experience that lacks pleasing sharpness. Black levels suffer in low-light sequences, and needed detail is missing. Fleshtones seem accurate, but the overall image is absent a minimalist lushness that was certainly intended.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix isn’t vigorous, limiting the action to the front channels. Dialogue and soundtrack are separated comfortably, with a few of the pop songs lending the mix a feeling of fullness.
English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are included.
“Behind the Scenes of ‘Virgin Territory’” (11:31) is a promotional piece sitting down with cast and crew to discuss the making of the picture. While producer Dino De Laurentiis is always entertaining to hear from, the reasoning behind the creation of this movie (something period for the teens and their allowance money) is disturbing, explaining perfectly why the feature is so misguided.
“Censored Scenes of Sexuality” (3:41) offers a few alternate looks at the nude scenes from the “Virgin Territory” workprint.
“David Walliams: Cart Pusher” (2:17) gives the comedian a few more seconds to not be funny at all in this deleted scene.
A still gallery of Roberto Cavalli costume designs is exhibited.
And a Theatrical Trailer for “Virgin Territory” has been included on this DVD.
With this much bare skin to peruse, it’s a downright crime that “Virgin Territory” is such a cringing bore. It’s an offering of bawdy behavior without a pinch of inspiring sparkle, and the more it tries to assume a provocative posture, the more the feature humiliates itself. Lighthearted ogling shouldn’t involve this much moviegoing discomfort.