In SPREAD, Nikki (Ashton Kutcher) isn’t a gigolo. He’s a sexual grifter, a fun-loving, freeloading hipster who understands his greatest assets are his looks and sexual prowess, which he uses to charm his way into the hearts of the city’s richest women and enjoy their lifestyle. Nikki gets a free place to live, fantastic gifts, A-list access, and plenty of sex. The women get to feel young, beautiful, and utterly fulfilled in the bedroom. It’s a mutually beneficial set-up... That is, until Nikki is forced to choose between love and money, and decide whether he can live on his own once and for all in the hopes of finding something real.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Count me in as one of the people who has Ashton Kutcher typecast as the dorky, loudmouthed idiot friend. His 'Punk'd' program, coupled with his trademark Kelso from 'That '70s Show' are what spring to mind when I hear his name...well, besides the whole Demi Moore/Bruce Willis situation that creeps me out. To my surprise, I now have a new image of the young actor, thanks to 'Spread.'
It's not a good one. Now, instead of seeing a dopey guy, more likely to ask you if you toke up than if you're into the works of Dostoyevsky, I see a creepy hobo sleeping his way around Los Angeles to make a living, with no regard for anyone but himself.
Kutcher is Nikki, the hollow, vacuous young man hooking up with the well off single women of Los Angeles, leeching off their gratitude for his sexual favors in order to stay above water. As we meet the horned up youngin' with a horrific fashion sense, we see him successfully win the affections of Samantha (Anne Heche), and are then forced to witness the pair rolling around the house in all forms of sexual bliss. But Nikki isn't a one woman man. As Samantha leaves for a business meeting, he throws (you guessed it) a blowout at her fancy pad, and hooks up with anyone who will fall for his deceptions. When Nikki is at a dinner, he runs into the waitress Heather (Margarita Levieva), and falls head over heels for her, despite (or even because of) her refusal to fall for his charms. All in all, 'Spread' is the story of the adventures of Nikki's penis, its conquests, and its downfall.
From the start, it's hard to like, let alone rationalize or sympathize, with Kutcher's Nikki. In fact, it's easy to loathe him. He's an utter douche, and a creepy one at that, from his discussion of his mother's pubic patch, to his manipulations due to his financial situation (guilting those he bleeds, despite his wrongdoings that would drive any sane person to not give a damn). He doesn't have a car, rather he uses everyone else's. He has no home, just the bed of whomever will share theirs with him. All he has is the clothing his ladyfriends buy him, and a fancy cell phone loaded with hookups.
It's also tough to sympathize with Samantha, as she's nothing but an enabler, and would likely drive anyone to OD if they were into that sort of thing. A perfect example, in one scene she returns home from her trip, only to catch Nikki with his hog tickling a young lady's tonsils, but ends up throwing off her clothes and helping finish off what she interrupted. Yeah, that's sure to get the point across!
As Nikki falls for Heather, his entire world collapses, from his inability to make due with former "flames," turning tricks for sandwiches, selling his expensive clothing for pennies on the dollar to pay for a motel room. Apparently he forgot how to run his own game, that or he ran out of well to do women in need of his talents. Still, there are no consequences for his whoring around, other than his heartbreak over his budding relationship with the impossible to attain Heather. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to show his favorite flavor of poison eventually leading to his own undoing.
'Spread' isn't so much a story as it is an excuse to get young actresses to bare it all on camera. The story is as thin as all the women it portrays, with character development being a byproduct, an excuse thrown in (and done improperly to boot) when the script would call for it. Heather's toker roommate goes from completely incoherent to zen-like in her advice, all in one conversation, much like you'd expect from Silent Bob when he delivers his single line of dialogue per Kevin Smith film. Dialogue is cringe inducing at best (with the classic "If I don't kiss you right now, my face will fall off" goading from Nikki to get his way. Who would really care for such a pathetic line? I'd rather see him go all 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' personally), and the performances for them are painful as well. Kutcher is an absolute disaster in his serious turn, making his previous performances look inspired.
The film closes (almost mercifully) with a shot of a frog eating a dead mouse. Slowly. For the entire length of the credits. What are we to gain from this? Are we the mouse, and Nikki the frog, having devoured our time? Is Nikki the mouse, and the women he used over the years the frog? Is the frog really just a frog, and there because they didn't have the money to get another actress to strip down for more self indulgent, pointless nudity? Or is the frog just there to remind us of how froggy Kutcher sounded the entire film, like he were some cheesy '80s porno actor? It really doesn't matter. 'Spread' wants to be a revelatory story about love and deception, and the consequences for one's actions, but all it comes off as is a pointless montage of Ashton Kutcher having sex.
"It's not seven."
'Spread' isn't even a four. Presented with a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the film doesn't exactly look bad. It just doesn't look great.
Colors are strong, but skin tones are often orangey, like Kutcher were the king of the Oompa Loompas (he just might be). Blacks had some crushing issues, and grain spiked in the few darker shots, while whites were always busy, never clean. There was some ringing to be found, while backgrounds could be hazy at times. Funnily enough, the digital noise in early sky shots was much like Los Angeles were polluted with green square blocks instead of just ugly brown air beneath the higher atmosphere. Detail is strong, though, and interiors are so busy with beauty that it's sometimes difficult to watch the actors rather than the furnishings...though the acting sure didn't help that situation.
'Spread,' ahem, "spreads" its wings with its accompanying Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound mix. The film is a talky, don't get me wrong, but there's more activity from random strangers and atmosphere than Nikki's crab army screaming at their fate.
Bass levels are pathetic, save for a few club scenes, where it is overblown, pounding so strong that dialogue is completely drowned out and unclear, near muffled. Other than said issue in a few scenes, dialogue is crystal clear, constantly from the front channels. Speaking of voices, you'll never get a more awkward performance than Kutcher's croaky voice, as he imitates the frogs he mocks. Street sequences have appropriate ambience for what is shown, though I have to question it, as my podunk Los Angeles offshoot city makes this Los Angeles sound barren. There's some light movement in the track, as well, from a few passing helicopters, but for the most part, this track is about spoken word, with the light accents from the rear channels just as a compliment, as it were, an afterthought.
The menus for 'Spread' are a pain to navigate, as any time you press a tab, instead of automatically closing when you remote in the opposite direction, or make a selection (in the set up area), you still have to tab up and press the pop up close button. That's bush league.
- Audio Commentary With Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, and Margarita Levieva. This commentary is found in the set up tab, rather than the supplements area. Kutcher is annoying, repeating "jokes" over and over at first, advocating smoking (even sarcastically), while the female cohorts are more set pieces here, occasionally popping their heads in for random replies to Kutcher, rather than introducing topics or ideas. A dull track, for extreme fans only. You know who you are. Heche's baby even contributes, with random baby noises that exemplify the generic random agreements from Heche. Like mommy like child.
- Living the Dream - The Making of 'Spread' (HD, 16 min) - Yeah, Ashton, we bet it's fun to roll around naked with random naked actresses. Sure, you can say you find the script intelligent, or the characters deep, but you aren't fooling me. This featurette is fairly EPK, as actors describe their characters, oh so positively.
- Behind the Scenes with Ashton Kutcher (HD, 5 min) - Kutcher talks about being typecast and some non-practical filming methods, while fellow actors talk up his professionalism and abilities. Again, EPK.
- The World According to Nikki (HD, 4 min) - Kutcher takes us down a trip through the character's mind. The "advice" given here is more likely to get you gonorrhea than anything else. Not words to live by here, if you want to be a player.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min) - The trailer for 'Spread' in high-def.
- Also on Blu-ray disc (HD, 2 min) - A trailer for 'Sunshine Cleaning,' and that's it.
'Spread' is a peculiar film, populated with characters who are impossible to care about, shoddy performances, and cringe-worthy scenarios. It's just not fun, and not interesting. The Blu-ray has an exclusive extra, and nice (though not amazing) presentation qualities, but still, the film is what matters most here. Rent it before you buy it.
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