In the mid-to-late 90s, movie executives took several stabs at turning Boy Meets World actor Will Friedle into a comedy leading man. Unfortunately, each one of these attempts bombed at the box office, which is a shame, because based on Trojan War, he clearly has the chops.
This PG-13 sex comedy follows Brad Kimble (Friedle), as he desperately searches for a condom during a night-long get-laid odyssey. That’s the pun of the title: a Homeric quest for a Trojan-brand prophylactic. (It is the first instance I can recall of product placement reaching the actual title of the movie.)
The movie was not just a box office flop but a historic bomb. It made only $309 at the box office (not a typo), playing in only two theaters. How it managed such a small release, I’m not sure. There was surely some boardroom drama. But it’s grown somewhat in stature since then, though it’s still very far from a staple: Letterboxd cites it as the 99th most popular comedy film of 1997.
The object of Brad’s lust is Brooke (Marley Shelton). Brad, while tutoring Brooke, catches her in the middle of a fight with her douchebag boyfriend, and she immediately throws herself at him as a nice guy rebound. One problem: Brad doesn’t have any protection with him, so his coitus is interruptus before it even starts. He runs out the door to make a quick trip to the grocery store, a delay that both he and Brooke seem perfectly okay with. This movie seems to have no concept of the “heat of the moment.”
There is a major wrinkle in all of this, of course, and you’ve probably guessed it if you’ve looked at the poster. Brad’s best friend is Leah, played by a young Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was a very important actress to a younger me. She is written here as halfway between a tomboy and a brainiac. It might be the least convincing instance in movie history of a guy not realizing a girl is ridiculously attractive because she is, like, wearing baggy clothes instead of a tight dress. Leah realizes her feelings for Brad early in the movie and spends the rest of the movie trying to get it through his thick head.
That’s where we arrive at one of the chief pleasures of this movie, at least from my perspective: It is a very well-cast, high-chemistry example of my favorite rom-com trope: best friends struggling to realize they had what they needed all along. Thus, I might be overrating this movie just a smidge due to personal preference for the genre and story (and lead actress), so take whatever grains of salt you deem necessary.
Once the movie kicks into high gear, it is a joyfully manic comedy broken into distinct episodes. Friedle gets to play all sorts of physical comedy, which he’s really good at. He’s also really good at punchline delivery and developing chemistry with other actors, although he gets less of a chance to do those than to be, for instance, accidentally entered into a flamenco dancing competition, sprayed with a giant water hose, or chased by an angry dog.
This is a late 90s movie, but it has the racial caricature content of a film at least 15 years older than it. The majority of the plot threads would be considered “problematic” by 2023 standards. There is the over-the-top Latin dance club, a Hispanic gang of graffiti taggers and stick-up thugs, and an Asian school janitor who knows kung-fu and uses his mop like a bo staff. Given the racial stereotypes, it’s a bit of surprise that the film is not directed by a white man, but rather Taiwanese-American George Huang. (I would venture a guess that both credited screenwriters, Andy Burg and Scott Myers, are white, though I couldn’t find pictures of either.)
The movie is carried by the tactile spectacle of a big-screen comedy with a decent-sized budget. No individual set piece is particularly noteworthy, but they come at a steady clip, and pretty much all of them are funny. If I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be a wild bus ride with a crazed driver played by Anthony Michael Hall.
The cast is full of little oddball cameos. Danny Trejo appears at the Latin dance club, Kathy Griffin is a gas station clerk who gets robbed, David Patrick Kelly plays a friendly but erratic homeless man, and Lee Majors plays a parody of his Six Million Dollar Man character. (The latter is another example of this movie feeling like it should be 15 years older than it is. What thirteen-year-old knew The Six Million Dollar Man in 1997?) Brad’s two other friends are played by well-known scumbag Danny Masterson and a voice actor from A Goofy Movie, Jason Marsden. It’s not exactly an all-star cast, but it has charisma in spurts.
The two things that hold the movie together for me are the fun set pieces and the chemistry between Friedle and the other actors, especially Love Hewitt. Friedle and Love Hewitt actually dated for a bit after filming Trojan War, and you can see that spark here.
This is a movie pitched pretty much exactly to my tastes, a silly and raunchy teen comedy with a warm romance at its core that takes place over one crazy night. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a tough formula to screw up. And Trojan War, a relic though it may be in some ways, pulls it off.