Senseless

on February 20, 1998 by Christine James
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   Marlon Wayans gives an amiable performance as Darryl Witherspoon, an economics genius who must hold down multitudinous jobs to put himself through college and support his mother and young siblings. Desperate for money, and having already sold all the blood, semen and human hair he could generate, he agrees to be a paid guinea pig for a scientific experiment in which he must inject himself daily with a luminescent serum. The drug heightens Darryl's five senses to a superhuman degree--causing him to flunk a major exam when the mere sound of pencils on paper and the magnified odoriferousness of his fellow students proves to much to bear.
   Darryl's newfound abilities to see, hear and smell things no other human could possibly perceive wind up both helping and hindering his chances of getting a coveted job in a major company. His rival for the position, rich-boy snot Scott Thorpe (David Spade), does all he can to thwart our hero, but his efforts mostly backfire thanks to Darryl's enhancements. Things spiral out of control when Darryl foolishly takes a double-dose of the drug, causing an overload in his brain that results in the alternating loss of one of his senses at all times. Attempts to impress his potential new boss (Rip Torn) prove disastrous as Darryl loses his sight or hearing at inopportune moments. To make matters worse, his roommate (Matthew Lillard) mistakenly worries Darryl's become a heroin addict when he sees him injecting the formula, and stages an intervention.
   Lillard's multiple-body-pierced hockey player with a penchant for poetry is an amusing, original character; Spade, on the other hand, is called upon once again to trot out his snide persona, but he does so with a lackluster energy, and is not given the opportunity to become the hilariously hateful nemesis he could be. The film itself similarly vacillates between humorously unique and disappointingly unimaginative. "Senseless" is most winsome during the scenes in which Darryl's affliction proves fortuitous, giving him an edge over the scheming Scott. Too often, however, the film goes for the lowbrow laugh, with Darryl's senses repeatedly detecting bodily emissions at unfortunately amplified levels.    Starring Marlon Wayans, David Spade, Matthew Lillard and Rip Torn. Directed by Penelope Spheeris. Written by Greg Erb & Craig Mazin. Produced by David Hoberman. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated R for language and sexual content. Running time: 93 min.
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