Head over Heels

How ironic that a film about not judging a book by its cover should star Freddie Prinze Jr., a man who is utterly without acting talent, but who continues to get roles because he looks good.

That, in fact, is the one thing “Head over Heels” has going for it: Freddie Prinze Jr. is handsome. If you can look at him for 91 minutes without any actual entertainment going on around him, then this is the movie for you. Otherwise, steer clear.

I hesitate to besmirch the good name of the adjective “bad” by applying it to this movie, but I can’t think of a better one. It’s bad. Apocalyptically bad. It’s actually worse than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be pretty bad, what with the presence of Mr. Prinze Jr. and all.

But in fact, “Head over Heels” would still be bad even if Mr. Prinze Jr. weren’t involved. Not only are the other actors wooden and incompetent, but the script and story are atrocious.

Amanda Pierce (Monica Potter) is a Manhattan gal with bad taste in men. She moves into a fabulous apartment with a bevy of supermodels, and the apartment has a great view: It looks right into the never-curtained window of fashion executive Jim Winston (Mr. Prinze Jr.), who is as hot as all get-out.

Jim seems to be perfect — perfection here defined as “really good-looking” and “friendly” — but Amanda soon discovers an imperfection: He might have killed someone. Amanda definitely saw what looked like a murder taking place in his apartment, and even though there’s no body and Jim seems like a nice guy and is obviously too skinny to murder anyone, she’s convinced he did. The police won’t investigate, though, partly because there’s no sign of foul play but also because they won’t take the word of a bunch of stupid models. So Amanda and her high-cheekboned roommates snoop around on their own.

This leads to a dreadful scene that has forever stained my soul. While the girls are looking for clues in Jim’s apartment, Jim returns home. Three of them hide in the shower, behind the curtain. Jim enters the bathroom and we hear an unzipping. We think, “Oh, how naughty. They’re going to hear him tinkle.” But no. He sits down on the toilet. Then he experiences a full 10 seconds of explosive, volcanic diarrhea. Loudly and graphically. In THX sound. It is the low point of the film, and possibly in all of Western civilization.

Its competition, though, is another bathroom scene later on, this time where the models have hidden in a public men’s room by mistake. Two plumbers come in to work on a toilet, and after engaging in work-related dialogue that makes it sound like they’re having sex (’cause, you know, THAT’s funny), they do something to a backed-up toilet that makes the commode the girls are huddled around go off like a geyser, covering them in horrifying lumpy brown liquid.

The director is Mark S. Waters, whose only previous film was a 1997 indie piece called “The House of Yes” (which also featured Mr. Prinze Jr. but was good anyway). A total of four men are credited with the story and screenplay; one wonders why it took that many people to come up with Amanda’s never-ending tongue-tied malaprops when she talks to Jim (“I’ve got the runs,” she says, instead of “I’ve got to run”).

And I would prefer not to discuss the climax, which allows bad guys to be captured while the models are stumbling dumbly into a career-making fashion show.

The movie is bad enough on the surface, but it’s even worse if you pay attention to its apparent message. Amanda and friends think Jim is a killer, which he turns out not to be (and if that ruins the surprise for you, you need help). The message, of course, is that things are not always what they seem. Yet at the same time, everyone assumes the models are shallow imbeciles — and they ARE shallow imbeciles! There is no pay-off, no sudden burst of hidden intelligence, no reversal where they turn out to be more than we thought. They are exactly what we thought they were, and no attempt is made to change that. They get by on their looks, just like Jim, and just like this movie. Ultimately, they all deserve to fail.

F (; PG-13, some profanity, some sexuality, a lot of vulgarity and crudeness.)