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IN SHORT: Giggles, no guffaws.
More to the point -- If you are a big fan of the Will Ferrell & Chris Kattan's Roxbury sketch work on Saturday Night Live, you'll have a fine time at the big screen version. If you are mystified at what makes this funny, don't bother.
"It must be for the boys. It's the most idiotic thing I've ever seen," said the female critic in front of Cranky as we walked out of a screening of A Night At The Roxbury, which ran about nine times the length of the usual sketch. There were enough jokes not revealed in the trailer that Cranky had a couple of good giggles and one good laugh, which a couple of good giggles and one good laugh more than I expected. To be honest, it's obvious that Ferrell and Kattan, with Steve Koren, put a lot of work into this thing to add a lot of humor. But most of it is beyond me.
Once upon a time TV star Richard Grieco plays himself as a club God admired and worshiped by a pair of inveterate losers named Steve and Doug Butabi (Ferrell and Kattan). They work for their dad (Dan Hedaya) selling silk flowers and dream of opening a club even better than "The Roxbury," which they can't get into. Due to a sequence of events I will not relate, the boys get into the club, get feted by the club owner (a very funny, uncredited Chazz Palminteri), and get jumped by a pair of miniskirted gold diggers. Molly Shannon, as a neighbor with merger (both sexual and business) on her mind, adds perhaps the funniest of the new gags and Loni Anderson gets to obsess about her plastic surgery. As thick as that sounds, the story is slim and the characters are slimmer.
Cranky thought he had figured out the secret to what makes the Butabi Boys funny. The characters exist in the SNL sketches to be laughed at, as opposed to laughed with. That's true frat boy comedy. It isn't easy for Cranky to get into that mindset, but hell, I used to be a frat boy once upon a time, so I gave it a go. That A Night at the Roxbury didn't hold together for Cranky may simply be because I am so far out of the target demographic that I never found the characters funny in the first place. Cranky watched the audience and saw more than a couple of them laughing heartily (as opposed to hysterically) and that is a good enough indication that the first paragraph I wrote may well be the last 'graph you need to read on the topic.
Unlike this year's two previous flicks set in and around nightclubs, Roxbury mixes the music way up loud where it is supposed to be. The net effect is that dialog becomes irrelevant, and our boys can spasticize on the dance floor or twiddle their noses or bop their heads to the beat, all character gimmicks from the sketches. All required and delivered in plenty.
Here's the weird part: the jokes were funnier when talked about after the fact. In other words, when other reviewers and I were talking about the movie the day after we would get hysterical just mentioning "the elevator gag" or "the speedo suit" or the fact that Richard Grieco's hairdo is straight out of the Wolverine comic book. Really. It's funnier in the retelling.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to A Night At The Roxbury, he would have paid . . .
It's rental level for Cranky, just 'cuz I wouldn't believe anyone would take this kind of sketch and make a movie out of it. Under the guidance of producer Amy Heckerling (writer/director of Clueless, director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, etc) and director John Fortenberry, A Night at the Roxbury has its (few) moments.
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