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A Night at the Roxbury

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: A Night at the Roxbury

Starring: Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan
Director: John Fortenberry
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Dan Hedaya, Molly Shannon, Loni Anderson, Elisa Donovan, Richard Grieco, Michael Duncan

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
½ star out of 4

The first question, of course, is why? Why take a Saturday Night Live sketch that was annoying, repetitive and dull in its three-minute form and expand it into a feature-length film? The few SNL sketches that made financially or artistically successful transitions to the big screen (''The Blues Brothers,'' "Wayne's World'' and Al Franken's underappreciated comedy/drama ''Stuart Saves His Family") were based on characters who were at least interesting. The most painful SNL movies ("The Coneheads" and "It's Pat") sprung from one note characters in one joke sketches.

In the case of the Butabi brothers, we're talking about half note characters in no joke sketches. For those of you lucky enough to have missed their endless SNL appearances, here's a complete description of the sketches. Dressed in bad outfits, the boys bop their heads to a disco tune and bash their bodies into startled women. That's it. Which again begs the question, why, why, why make a movie out of this?

Enough whining. They made one and my job description dictated that I see it, then write about it, so here we go. "A Night at the Roxbury" is bad. There are infrequent humorous moments, a few good supporting performances and a genuinely funny wedding scene, but these are most certainly not enough to salvage this sad little movie.

Here's the run-down. Steve and Doug Butabi are two clueless losers who accost women in the few L.A. nightclubs that will grant them entry. Steve (Will Ferrell) is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen and Doug (the reptilian Chris Kattan) is his surly brother, angry over the second class treatment he receives from his father. The boys live with their folks (Dan Hedaya and Loni Anderson) and work in Pop's artificial flower store. Dwayne Hickman, manager of the neighboring lamp store, is anxious to pair his daughter (Molly Shannon) with Steve, and father Butabi loves the idea, envisioning an expansion of his store should the union ever occur.

The brothers finally gain entry to the trendy Roxbury when Richard Grieco, anxious to avoid a lawsuit after rear-ending the boys' vehicle, ushers them into the nightclub. They bond with club owner Chazz Palminteri and pitch their peculiar idea for a disco (don't ask), while Colin Quinn, the owner's right hand man, glowers in the background. Two opportunistic women latch onto the brothers. Quinn keeps the boys away from Palminteri. Dad cuts off their use of the car, the brothers become estranged, a wedding is arranged, blah, blah, blah.

The film's only redeeming moments come with the wedding scene, which offers genuinely funny references to "The Graduate," "Say Anything" and "Jerry Maguire." Molly Shannon's performance as a sexually assertive young woman is appealing, as are cameos from former "Kid in the Hall" Mark McKinney and Lochlyn Munro (whose spirited work as Cliff salvaged the otherwise disposable "Dead Man on Campus").

Aside from that, the film offers virtually no rewards, although I found Ferrell and Kattan's desperate attempts to add depth to their empty characters perversely fascinating. I also found it impossible to take my eyes off Richard Grieco, looking doughy and smarmy in a frightening cameo.

When "A Night at the Roxbury" hits cable, it might be worth a viewing, if only to see the depths reached by Lorne Michaels' latter day SNL projects. Until then, stay as far away from the Roxbury as you possibly can. Don't reward drivel like this with your hard-earned dollars.

Copyright 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott

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