That guy’s such a dick!

In New Column by John Tebbutt

Bad Johnson escapes from his trouser prison

Rich (Cam Gigandet) answers his phone and finds himself listening to a man claiming to be his penis. It’s a collect call. He accepts the charges. I doubt if Rich would normally answer a call like that, but this morning, Rich woke up to find his penis missing, so he’s kind of eager for answers. Wouldn’t you be?

Turns out, the guy on the phone really is Rich’s penis, now magically transformed into a human played by standup comedian Nick Thune. Rich’s penis convinces Rich of his identity by reciting a list of embarrassing sexual misadventures from their shared past that nobody else could possibly know. He also asks for a ride, since their magical Freaky Friday-esque predicament has left him stranded naked in an alley. Rich goes out and rescues him, and finds himself with a new roommate.

Such is the premise of Bad Johnson (2014), an otherwise normal comedy about a normal-looking man who used to be an appendage between another man’s legs, but who now embodies his id. The two settle into an Odd Couple-style living arrangement, in which the once-irresponsible womanizer Rich must now play Felix Ungar to his own penis’ Oscar Madison. It’s a challenge. Rich has always blamed his own sexual appetites for sabotaging his life, and now here those appetites are, in human form, sitting on his couch, playing Xbox, smoking weed, and paying off hookers by giving them Rich’s appliances.

I was kind of expecting a tongue-in-cheek horror film…
From the film’s description (a penis assumes human form and wreaks havoc), I was kind of expecting a tongue-in-cheek horror film; something along the lines of the similarly titled Bad Milo! (2013) or Teeth (2007), but Bad Johnson, weirdly enough, is best described as a rom-com. Rich learns to live without his penis, and becomes less selfish and more thoughtful of other people’s feelings. Freed from the ulterior motive of sex, he stops playing manipulative games and even becomes more considerate. These new qualities attract the attention of Lindsay (Katherine Cunningham), a pretty client at the gym where Rich works. That’s nice and all, but what’s going to happen when the relationship heats up, and she finds out he’s a Ken doll? Even worse, the walking penis tries his best to sabotage their relationship and to steal Lindsay for himself.

This is one of those “unexplained magical curse” flicks that throws one incredibly weird hex into an otherwise normal narrative, and then takes it seriously. Sometimes the genre can be unexpectedly charming, such as the Tom Hanks favourite Big (1988). Other times it can be kind of rancid, like in The Change-Up (2011). This film kind of straddles the line between those poles, but it still works much better than a romantic comedy about a penis-man should.
Okay, so it’s not exactly Oscar material, but Bad Johnson isn’t nearly as wretched as I was expecting. This might be the classiest talking-genitalia movie I’ve ever seen, which is admittedly faint praise. (Not because I haven’t seen other talking-genitalia movies, mind you; it’s just that the other films I could cite are decidedly more vulgar than this one.)