When you see the number of movies I see per year, every once in a while one comes along that surprises you as being downright excellent. Sometimes you happen upon these by chance and going to see things you normally wouldn't see. Other times it happens by sheer luck. The year was 1998 and I was watching Siskel and Ebert as I often did and still do to this day. After the usual reviews of studio blockbusters discussion turned to a small movie that was only playing in 2 markets in the US. The film's name was "Eight Days A Week" from director Michael Davis who had previously directed only one children's film. The film's subject matter dealt with a boys love for a girl who thought of him only as a friend. It took place during the last summer before she went away to college and the boy decided camped out on her front lawn. It seemed to have an interesting premise and with Siskel and Ebert's raving about I suddenly wanted to see it. It would never get a wider theatrical release and after a few months it fell to the back of my mind. Sometime later while browsing the shelves of a local video store I came across the tape but for whatever reason I didn't rent it. By luck my sister thought the box looked interesting and rented it for some sort of party one night. After the party ended and since I tend to be quite the night owl I decided to watch it. At 2:30am I put it on expecting to watch the first half and finish it off in the morning. Well 90 minutes later the movie was over and I had found a hidden gem to add to my collection. About a year ago I heard about the directors new film entitled "100 Girls", which was once again having problems finding a distributor. I was hoping that it would eventually find a North American distributor as it did manage to be released theatrically in Europe. This was not to be, so I eagerly awaited the day when I could check it out on DVD. A date was announced and I waited patiently until I could get my hands on the disc which proved to be a somewhat difficult task in and amongst itself.
Matthew (Jonathan Tucker) is your typical college student. He lives in the dorms with his friend Rod who seems to have some issues with women. One night after a party at the girls dorm Matthew finds himself in the elevator with a girl. Before he can see her face a blackout occurs. During the blackout he and the girl begin to talk and start a relationship which leads to an act of intimacy. The night passes and when the power comes back on in the morning the girl is gone. Matthew feels he has found his kismatic destiny, his one true soul mate. If only he knew her name. All he has left of hers is a pair of underwear. Destined to find his soul mate Matthew launches into a plan to search through the rooms of all 100 girls living in the dorm. There's only one problem, He's a guy and there's no guys allowed at the dorm. The quick witted boy decides to pose as a maintenance worker and creates problems so that the girls will need him to fix. While at the dorm he also manages to coax the girls out of their rooms long enough to search for the all important panty match. During his search he learns that many of the girls in the dorm have some odd character traits. There's Michelle the hummer (Joesphine Angelini), Barbara (Kristin Herold) the ever tanned girl, Arlene (Katherine Heigl) the foose ball obsessed tomboy, the artsy girl (Emmanunelle Chirqui) and of course the goddess Cynthia (Jaime Pressly) and that's only five of the hundred. One night during his search Matthew get's caught by Wendy (Larisa Oleynik), the girl next door type who he went to high school with. Over dinner they get to talking and Wendy offers to help young Matthew with his search. She gives him the female insight that he needs as she has him cross dress to befriend the girls. Meanwhile Matthew tries to get down to core of Rod's problem that causes him to act the way he does around women. Matthew begins to help the girls and help himself while he looks for his dream girl. He becomes a true friend protecting one from her abusive boyfriend, telling one that she is indeed special and shouldn't kill herself. Suddenly finding Matthew is more to these girls then just a maintenance worker - he's their friend.
At it's most basic level "100 Girls" is about a guy whose looking for a girl who he thinks is his soul mate. However, in actuality the film is about so much more. It's about the relationships between guys and girls and how guys act around girls. Touching upon emotions and stereotypes director Michael Davis is able to weave a heartwarming tale that breaks new ground on both fronts. It shows how Matthew at the beginning as someone who is only concerned with himself and not others. It also shows how he progresses and evolves as a person through the story. Through his friends and enemies he learns their is more to life then just oneself. What starts out as a light comedy turns into a more dramatic picture later on. The real theme of this movie is the different ways of relating to different people and I welcome this with open arms.
Although the title is "100 Girls" I doubt there was really 100 different girls in the movie but I'm sure there were at least 20 or 30. Since I can't possibly comment on all their performances I'll mention a few that I thought were standouts. Arguably the most well known females in the cast would be Katherine Heigl (TV's Roswell, Valentine), Larisa Oleynik (TV's Alex Mack, 3rd Rock from the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You) and Emmanuelle Chriqui (Snow Day). Katherine, who I feel is one of the most stunning young women on the planet takes on a very different role then that of Isabel on Roswell. Katherine plays Arlene, the competitive tomboy and it was interesting to see her totally downplaying her lovely looks. While Katherine's role was small she was very good in it. I'd have liked to see her have more screen time but when the title is "100 Girls" I guess not all of them can get major starring roles. Emannuelle Chriqui is an actress who I hadn't really in anything prior to this movie. As Patty the artistic girl with the abusive boyfriend she is given the second largest amount of screen time and uses it quite effectively to her advantage. She has sort of a unique mysterious appeal that I think will land her some big roles in the future. Larisa Oleynik is an actress I'm all too familiar with as she starred in one of my favorite after school series, "The Secret World of Alex Mack". Since then she's also appeared as a regular guest star on NBC's "3rd Rock From the Sun" and currently has a small role in the art house film "An American Rhapsody". Larisa has always had a bubbly personality that came across well on the screen. She's always perky and with some people that can be annoying with her it's part of her charm. As Wendy, the all American girl next door type, she is perfectly cast. Her character had more of a back story then the others and I'd classify her as the female lead in this picture. Jonathan Tucker is another actor I wasn't familiar with prior to this film. Going down his list of credits at the IMDB he has appeared in a handful of projects in the past 5 years. This is a breakout role for Jonathan. The range that he shows and the events that occur that change his character are handled with the touch of a Hollywood veteran. Though his appearance looks like that of a comedic actor he is able to handle both the comedic and dramatic aspects of Matthew quite well. Director Michael Davis has the tendency to cast unknown non leading man types in the leads in his pictures and so far has gone two for two. Jonathan and Joshua Schaeffer who starred in Davis's 1997 picture "Eight Days a Week" were both excellent in their respective roles. Sadly Joshua hasn't done anything else since that film. I hope this won't be the case with Jonathan. James Debello, who is sort of a cheap version of Seann William Scott gives off a decent comedic performance but isn't really given much to do as the focus is on Matthew and the girls, not Rod.
Writer/Director Michael Davis once again proves he capable of writing a smart, witty comedy with real life characters. While some of these characters do seem a tad comic bookish at times for the most part they have real human traits. Michael crafts a smart teen movie with characters that do exist in real life. This is not a glamorized version of life, it's real life and each day people go through the same emotions as Matthew. While not as quite as good as "8 Days A Week", "100 Girls" takes the story to the next logical step.
It's a shame that this film didn't receive a theatrical release but I can see why. The film doesn't really have any big names and Katherine Heigl and Larisa Oleynik aren't exactly names that are known to people outside the targeted demographic. It's true the film doesn't really have mainstream appeal but I hope that won't discourage people from seeing it. "100 Girls" is a film for anyone who believes in destiny.
Movie Rating : 8/10
"100 Girls" is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which is unfortunately not enhanced for anamorphic displays. Original press materials and feature lists had this movie listed as being Full-Frame so imagine my pleasant surprise when it was 1.85:1. Since this movie was originally made with theatrical release in mind it was shot for 35mm presentation. "100 Girls" will never look as good as a big studio movie like "The Mummy Returns" but considering it's origins I think Trimark did a good job on this transfer. Black level is good and the color palette remains natural. The image has a decent amount of detail but does lack the overall sharpness of Hollywood movie. A few small problems pop up as the film does contain some grainy sequences. Print flaws come in the form of a few specks of dirt and one minor scratch. A few of the films dark sequences seem a tad too dark and muddy but overall this is a pretty nice effort from Trimark.
Video Rating : 8/10
Trimark releases "100 Girls" with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Soundtrack. Although the cover art on both the retail and copies sent out to reviewers claim the disc has a full on DD 5.1 soundtrack that is not the case here. This is just a simple case of a labelling error which does happen from time to time.
As a comedy "100 Girls" falls into the usual audio trap of being a front heavy, dialogue driven motion picture with the only real surround usage coming from the music. The DD 2.0 track suits the material just fine as the film doesn't really have any need for a creative mix. Music clarity is generally good and dialogue is easy to hear. Aside from the fact that it's a 2.0 soundtrack I can really find any faults with this mix. It's not reference quality but it gets the job done.
Audio Rating : 7/10
This disc is as bare bones as it gets, as the only extra is the films trailer.
Extras Rating : 3/10
Final Thoughts:"100 Girls" is a movie that I feel was given the raw deal in terms of theatrical distribution. It's an excellent coming of age story that deals with a concept that I have great belief in - destiny. Trimark does an OK job on this disc with the only let downs being that the transfer is non anamorphic and the soundtrack only 2.0. An audio commentary would have been a nice addition as well. Diehard fans of the actresses and film will be pleased that they can finally throw away their illegal video cds or delete their downloaded copies and pick up the DVD. Anyone looking for a feel good story with some substance should try and hunt down a copy of this disc. I had a hard time finding a copy of this one locally only to finally find one after an exhaustive internet search. Sadly the distribution on Trimark's part is slightly lacking as some online stores don't seem to be stocking the disc at all. In addition to the online site woes I couldn't find this one in any of the stores I checked. For those of you like me who looked forward to this disc "100 Girls" is well worth the search. If you happen to see a copy for rent or sale please don't hesitate to take a look. Search out "100 Girls" and you won't be disappointed.
Disc Rating : 7/10
Reviewed by Mark McLeod September 28, 2001