Two party guys bob their heads to Haddaway's dance hit "What Is Love?"
while getting themselves into trouble in nightclub after nightclub. It's
barely enough to sustain a three-minute _Saturday_Night_Live_ skit, but
_SNL_ producer Lorne Michaels, _Clueless_ creator Amy Heckerling, and
Paramount Pictures saw something in the late night television institution's
recurring "Roxbury Guys" sketch that would presumably make a good feature.
Emphasis on the word "presumably." _A_Night_at_the_Roxbury_ takes an
already-thin concept and tediously stretches it far beyond the breaking
point--and that of viewers' patience levels.
The first five minutes or so of _Roxbury_ play very much like one of the
original "Roxbury Guys" skits. With "What Is Love?" blaring on the
soundtrack, the brotherly duo of Doug and Steve Butabi (Chris Kattan and
Will Ferrell) bob their heads, scope out "hotties" at clubs, and then bump
a select few with violent pelvic thrusts. There is one crucial difference,
however--these guys speak.
That little fact has been used as justification for the film's existence,
that the Butabis' newfound capacity for speech would open up a whole new
set of doors for the characters. The doors opened by director John
Fortenberry and screenwriters Steve Koren, Ferrell, and Kattan are new,
that's for sure, but they all lead to comic dead ends. There is no story
per se, only a loosely structured and linked series of subplots. The
brothers literally run into (or, rather, get run into, as in by car)
Richard Grieco of _21_Jump_Street_ fame, and through him they gain entrance
into the exclusive Roxbury club. There, they meet a hotshot club owner
(Chazz Palminteri, conspicuously uncredited--can you blame him?), who takes
an interest in an idea of theirs. Meanwhile, the bros' overbearing father
(Dan Hedaya) wants them to stop clubbing. When Doug refuses and the
dimwitted Steve obeys his father, a rift is created between the two.
The narrative messiness of _Roxbury_ would have been forgivable if all
that went on were the slightest bit funny, but virtually none of it is.
The assembled press audience mostly sat stonily silent throughout the
entire film, with the one big exception being a big laugh near the end.
Alas, the joke--a rather lazy takeoff on _Jerry_Maguire_--will only strike
a chord with people who have seen that film. Granted, a lot of people
_have_ seen _Jerry_Maguire_, but the fact that the film's best joke is
completely dependent on one's familiarity with another film says a lot
about _Roxbury_'s lack of inspiration.
That lack of inspiration can be traced back to the insipid characters
themselves. Like too many of the skits on the current incarnation of
_Saturday_Night_Live_, "The Roxbury Guys" is a one-joke sketch that never
once suggests that the characters have enough comic life in them to survive
outside of the sketch context. After watching one of the "Roxbury" skits
on SNL, this is what you come away with from the characters: they bob their
heads to "What Is Love?", bump unsuspecting women, and... that's all. After
watching _A_Night_at_the_Roxbury_, you'll be left with exactly the same.