(On DVD, July 2011) There’s an unsolvable contradiction at the heart of Pledge This! that condemns it to being a terrible film, and it’s more amusing to see the film try to ignore it than it is to witness the gross-out gags and weak jokes that pass themselves off as a comedy. The contradiction is that the film capitalizes on its star Paris Hilton, even as it tries to set up an underdog plot opposing “normal” girls to the plastic sorority ideal that Hilton incarnates. The first five minutes set the unpleasant tone, as Hilton’s character’s affect-less voice-over introduces herself as a heroine of mythical proportion, teaching girls how to be perfect pledges without a single hint at deprecating self-awareness. It takes a while, in fact, for the true heroines of the film to be introduced, and Pledge This! is such a prisoner of Hilton’s top billing that it wimps out whenever it tries to oppose its heroines to the kind of superficial ideal that Hilton represents. That would be enough to sink a film, but Pledge This! is also remarkable by how badly it’s made. Forget about direct-to-video; this straddles the line between professional and amateurish. Acting, staging, cinematography, sets, screenwriting: nearly every aspect of filmmaking is perceptibly worse than average in this film, and it’s not an intentional artistic choice or a consequence of the budget. In an effort to goose up the interest of the film, the “naughty edition” DVD includes more female nudity, but even that fails to be impressive when it’s shoehorned so obviously: on at least three occasions, the film stops dead for about ten seconds as the camera lingers on naked breasts, and the result feels more embarrassing than alluring. Compared to such rank incompetence, commenting on Hilton’s lack of acting skills, lack of intonations and forced “That’s hot” dialogue seems almost beside the point. But her very presence actually drags the film further down because she will not allow herself to be considered as the villain her “character” is supposed to be. She even torpedoes a number of one-liners that would have been funnier from just about any competent actor. There are, to be truthful, a few chuckles here and there: Kerri Kenney makes the most out of a small role, while Noureen DeWulf somehow earns smiles in a borderline-offensive role. Still, it’s hard to avoid that this isn’t a comedy as much as something for frat-boys to put on the big-screen TV while they drink themselves to a stupor. Wikipedia’s entry on the film details Pledge This!’s troubled production history (shot in 2004, delayed, re-shot with nude scenes in 2005-2006, delayed, publicly disowned by Hilton, and released direct-to-video in late 2006) but does not excuse the final result. It’s certainly an instructive demonstration of about half a dozen ways a film can self-destruct, but don’t take this as a recommendation. The DVD itself sports one of the cheapest-looking menus and making-of featurette I can recall, faithfully reflecting the impression left by the film.