What can be said about “Dumbbells” that hasn’t already been said about “Porky’s”,“Losin’ It”, “Fraternity Vacation”, “The Last American Virgin”, “Screwballs”, “Private Resort”, “Hot Dog: The Movie”, etc.? Not much, actually. They’re all movies aimed at a specific audience demographic (young, horny males) and are filled with the requisite T & A and low-brow humor. They aren’t all terrible films, but they won’t end up on any AFI “Best” list, either. They set the bar low and, more often than not, succeed at some level.
So it is with “Dumbbells”, a new film directed by Christopher Livingston and seeing a limited theatrical release now as well as being available via Video-on-Demand. This low-budget, amiable piece of cinematic fluff tells the tale of one Chris Long (Brian Drolet), art major and superstar forward for the NCAA basketball powerhouse that is LA Tech. (That alone is good for a laugh…) who after wrecking his knee, finds himself working at a dead-end job in a rundown gym. Things look to be going from bad to worse when the gym is taken over by former male supermodel Jack Guy (former male supermodel Hoyt Richards) who has dreams of producing a gym-based reality TV series to be hosted by Fabio. (Yes, apparently in Hollywood people still have dreams involving Fabio…) Things go from bad to worse to worser when Jack discovers a cult he was once involved in has absconded with all his money. Ah, but he has a plan to recover his money and save the gym. And so it goes…
A more interesting film might be made from the story of how star/co-screenwriter/co-producer Richards got some (fairly) well-known faces to appear in this film. Who? Well, comedians Tom Arnold and Jay Mohr (miles away from “True Lies” and “Jerry Maguire”) have small roles. The aforementioned Fabio is along for the ride, Jaleel “Urkel” White plays the cult leader, and Hollywood living-legend Carl Reiner does a bit. With all due respect to Mr. Livingston, one wonders what might have been if they had been able to talk Carl Reiner into directing “Dumbbells” instead of appearing in it.
Accompanying Reiner in his bit is Nancy Olson (light years away from her Oscar-nominated role in “Sunset Boulevard”) whose appearance so intrigued me I had to immediately try to figure out why. (Check the director’s IMDB page for the obvious reason as to why she’s in this film.) Also intriguing is the fact that apparently a bit of this film is autobiographical. Richards had his own cult experiences, and I suppose one could give him credit for taking what must have been a very difficult time for him and making light of it.
As low-budget comedies go, “Dumbbells” falls somewhere between complete disaster and rousing yuck-fest. A likeable cast helps, and while you could have fun playing “spot the continuity errors”, set your expectations as low as the budget and you’ll find it a pleasant and surprisingly inoffensive (surprising based on the trailer…) time passer with a couple of laughs.