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Wild Things: A Twisting, Turning, Erotic Movie

"Wild Things” was released March 20 1998. The film’s domestic box office gross was $30,147,739.
September 12, 2008 By Matt Meltzer in


If you’ve ever driven on California’s Pacific Coast Highway, you know that while a beautiful, fun, scenic ride, the constant turns become a royal pain in the ass after about an hour and a half. That’s pretty much what it’s like watching “Wild Things.” While the twists are fun, and the scenery, is, well, memorable, after a while you just want something to go straight so your head doesn’t start spinning.



For the six of you who have not heard of this movie, “Wild Things” is a borderline-camp thriller choc full of beautiful people and beautiful South Florida scenery that makes “The Sixth Sense” look like a formulaic chick flick. While the plot is fun, and at some points riveting, there is really only one thing anyone remembers about this movie, and that is the scene where Denise Richards and Neve Campbell get naked together in a swimming pool. Or maybe it’s the threesome with Matt Dillon in the seedy Everglades Motel. Ok, make that two things. Those scenes are so memorable that while I saw this movie for the first time about two years ago, I had completely forgotten all the ridiculous plot twists. But if you wanted to know exactly how many seconds into the threesome Denise Richards’ bra somes off? Well, I’m your man for that one.


The film starts out looking like it might be some sort of movie adaptation of a Carl Hiaasen novel, with panoramic scenes of the Everglades panning up into the western suburbs of Miami and their unmistakable clusters of terra cotta roofs. After the helicopter shot takes us through all of West Dade, it lands in the fictional town of Blue Bay, which is unmistakably Coral Gables. Or Coco Plum or Gables by the Sea if you’re counting.  Basically it’s an enclave of rich people, opulent Spanish-Mediterranean houses, and wealthy teenagers with too much time on their hands. The film was shot primarily at Ransom Everglades High School in Coconut Grove, a school known for having students sail up to class on private boats. So you get the idea of the setting.


The plot revolves around a former University of Miami athlete- turned-guidance counselor, played by the square-jawed Matt Dillon, at ever-so-ritzy Blue Bay High. The counselor, Sam Lombardo, is a sort of fantasy for the girls of Blue Bay and a reality for the older, hotter desperate wealthy housewives. Lombardo is the quintessential attractive hired hand; not rich enough to marry into the aristocracy that is Blue Bay, but good-looking enough to sleep with the women and get an occasional invite to the yacht club.



But the fantasy lifestyle comes to a bitter halt when the teenage daughter of an ex-flame accuses Lombardo of rape. The mother, Sandra Van Ryan, is one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Blue Bay.  Kelly, the daughter played by the obviously-over-18 Richards, accuses Lombardo of raping her after she and a friend wash his jeep in short cutoffs, another example of the wonderfully gratuitous T and A this movie provides.


The head detective on the case is Ray Duquette, played by the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon. Duquette won’t press charges against Lombardo because he has no proof (Kelly conveniently concocts a story as to why Lombardo left no physical evidence) until a second student, played by Campbell, comes forward. This second girl, Suzie Toller, is portrayed as swamp trailer trash that commutes to the posh school in a broken down old VW Bug. As anyone from South Florida knows, this is a bit of a stretch as the only folks who are not running Bingo parlors and airboat rides that live out in the glades are on the Collier County side, and would probably end up going to school in Naples. But really, in a movie that asks you to stretch the limits of your suspension of disbelief like a piece of expensive taffy, it is the least of the inaccuracies.


The case goes to trial, Lombardo’s sleazy, Little Havana-dwelling shyster of an attorney played by Bill Murray gets Suzy to admit she made up her story on the witness stand, and the case is dismissed as Kelly throws a glass past Suzie’s head while calling her a string of profanities.


Lombardo gets a huge settlement from Kelly’s mother, Bill Murray gets his check, and we look at the clock and go “Hey, that was only an hour. And where the hell is my Denise Richards-Neve Campbelll pool scene?! I feel cheated! I’m calling Blockbuster and getting my money back!”


And just as you reach for the phone to call and scream at the manager for false advertising, we get our first in a series of unnerving plot twists. The first twist leads to the aforementioned Dillon-Richards-Campbell threesome in the motel, which gets you to put the phone down for at least a couple of minutes.

Duquette, Bacon’s character, realizes something is fishy about the case and sets out to interrogate both girls, Lombardo, and even the elder Van Ryan. His investigation moves the plot ahead down its perpetually twisting path, that doesn’t even end when “The End” flashes across the screen. That’s right, embedded in the closing credits are scenes which take the twists even further, and explain how some of the seemingly preposterous events of the movie actually come to be. I will not spoil the movie for you (mostly so you don’t stop watching after the pool scene) but I will say when you watch this film pay more attention to what you DON’T see than to what you do. Because that, friends, is where the answers lie.


As far as its portrayal of Miami, the writers of this script were wise to set it in a fictional town (and county, for that matter) so that reviewers like me who are so big on Miami accuracy wouldn’t call them out. Yes, I understand a guidance counselor having a threesome with two rich, smoking hot students is also a bit of a stretch, but then again I don’t think anybody was comtemplating the plausibility of that one while Neve Campbell was pouring champgne all over Denise Richards’ bare chest.


By using a fictitious town, the writers were again able to portray South Florida as a place where Hispanics are relegated to being pool boys and secretaries. As is my major complaint with most films about Miami, it looks as if every rich person in the city is white, old money, which as anyone familiar with the Gables knows is only part of the case (although Blue Bay really is more Gables than Miami; even the police cars for the town look a lot like the ones Gables Cops use). But again, the only Hispanic characters we see in the film are Sandra Van Ryan’s sexy Latin pool guy who screws her by day and roughs up Lombardo by night, and Bill Murray’s over-painted, long-nailed secretary. But this movie is supposed to be more about fun and gratuitous sex than a cultural examination of South Florida. So, again, we let it go.


As far as movies that really capture Miami, this one is a colossal failure. But then again, it’s Blue Bay, not Miami, so the writers can use whatever creative license they want. I will say that to the uninitiated, the idea of teachers at a wealthy South Florida private school sleeping with hot students seems a bit odd. But take a trip out to Coconut Grove during the summer with a male teacher from Ransom or Gulliver who is under 30, and your perspective on that one changes too. So I guess the writers of Wild Things got some things right: Rich girls love doing crazy stuff. And when it comes to crazy stuff, no two hours packs more of it in than “Wild Things.”

And if this review was not enough to make you want to watch the entire movie just to see a couple of fantastic minutes, here is the infamous “Wild Things” lesbian pool scene with Denise Richards and Neve Campbell we’ve all heard so much about.

Related Categories: Movie Reviews

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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