Cougars, Inc. wants to be Charlie Bartlett and Juno with the charm of Ferris Bueller, and it has many of the same elements as all three movies. First, the movie is pushing an up-and-coming young actor. Charlie Bartlett had Anton Yelchin, Ferris Bueller's Day Off had Matthew Broderick, and Cougars, Inc. has Kyle Gallner. Sam in Cougars, Inc. and Charlie in Charlie Bartlett are both set up as likable underdogs, and they are both engaged in illegal professions: prostitution and drug dealing. Cougars, Inc. even attempts witty banter like Juno. Unfortunately, Cougars, Inc. fails to measure up to any of these other far superior films.
In Cougars, Inc., Sam (Kyle Gallner) has been kicked out of an untold number of public and private schools, and he has one last chance at a new private school with a headmaster Dan (James Belushi) who has taken a special interest in him. Sam is a talented writer, and Dan wants to see him succeed. When Sam can't afford his tuition, Dan tries to get him a scholarship, but in the meantime, Sam gangs together with his friends and comes up with a plan to raise the money. They will throw sex parties with beautiful older women. They romance these cougars and show them a good time, and in exchange, the women give them a nice payday. Everybody wins until Sam falls in love with a snarky-but-sweet local girl Courtney (Sarah Hyland from Modern Family) and has to find a way to end his thriving business.
First off, the editing in the film is completely amateur. I have seen better editing in high school film club projects. The editor has no idea how to move from one scene to the next, so they put in these ridiculous title cards that look like they were made on iMovie. The film might have been low-budget, but the film's poor editing points more to lack of talent than lack of money.
Perhaps my analysis is a bit unfair to the editor. There is plenty of blame to go around for Cougars, Inc. Director and screenwriter K. Asher Levin should take most of the blame for a script that wants to be Juno but has the creativity of soft-core porn. Sam is somewhat developed as a character, but no one else is distinguished as anything beyond sex-crazed cougar, horny teenage boy, and sweet girlfriend. They smirk at the camera as if these characters have something interesting to say, but their dialogue is inane and really kind of dull. The movie is only 81 minutes long, and I kept looking at my watch hoping it would be over soon.
Beyond all these problems, I can't get over the fact that Cougars, Inc. glorifies statutory rape and asks the audience to laugh about it. Sam and his friends are all underage, and these women are taking advantage of them in order to feel young and sexy. If the tables were turned and a group of underage girls were sleeping with older men to pay for private school tuition, most people would call it unacceptable. Movies like Cougars, Inc. encourage society to turn a blind eye to rape when it involves an attractive older woman taking advantage of a younger boy. Just this past week, the Houston Press got in trouble when they published an article titled “10 Hottest Women on the Texas Sex Offenders List.” One of the women on the list molested a two-year-old child. If the Houston Press had published a list of the hottest male sex offenders, the writer and editor would be fired, but as it is, writer Richard Connelly issued an apology and is still working for the Houston Press.
Cougars, Inc. has bad acting, terrible directing, and worse editing, but I could have looked past that if I could see true heart behind the project. Early low-budget projects are easy to forgive if the audience can see how much the filmmakers wanted to tell this story. Unfortunately, I don't think the filmmakers put much thought into Cougars Inc. seeing as they didn't even take the time to consider the messages they were sending about statutory rape and child prostitution. When I look at this movie, I see people trying to cash in on the trends of smart-mouthed teens and sex-starved cougars, and I hope that audiences won't give these hacks any of their money.
On a last side note, there is a dog photo-shopped into the front and back cover of the Cougars, Inc. Blu-ray box. I just felt the need to point out that there is no dog, much less that dog, anywhere in this movie. False advertising!
Special features include a deleted scene, the film's trailer, a featurette titled “Cougars 101,” theatrical trailers for other Lionsgate releases, and a commentary track by K. Asher Levin, Kyle Gallner, and Kathryn Morris.
"Cougars, Inc." is on sale May 10, 2011 and is rated R. Comedy, Romance, Romantic-Comedy. Directed by K Asher Levin. Written by K. Asher Levin. Starring Denise Richards, James Belushi, Kyle Gallner, Sarah Hyland.