Some movie buffs say that despite varied genres that well-
known directors use during their careers, you should be able
to tell who is at the helm of their movies. The personalities
show through. I wonder how these fans could explain how
"Screwed" is any way the product of not only the same
directors but the same writers as "The People vs. Larry Flynt"
and "Man on the Moon"and "Ed Wood." After knocking out
three quality films, each with subtle comedy and trenchant
satire, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski must have
taken a bet that they couldn't emulate Groucho and Harpo--
sort of like those assignments we had to write in college
literature classes "in the style of Hemingway" or "in the
manner of Faulkner." Karaszewski and Alexander would
have come out on the screwed side of that wager, because
their latest effort--utilizing a principal character who was fired
from Saturday Night Live because he was unfunny--proves
that the TV hatchet-people were correct in their decision.
But maybe we should not blame all on Norm Macdonald
who as Willard Fillmore, a chauffeur in the employ of a
harridan that Karl Marx and Bert Brecht might have used as a
model of the injustices inherent in the final stages of
capitalism. The pathetic riff on the name of a former U.S.
president--which Alexander and Karaszewski used for another
character named Grover Cleaver--is not only inept but
baffling. How does the U.S. presidency relate in any way to
those two losers? (Don't answer that question.)
In this buddy-caper burlesque, Willard, a chauffeur is
exploited by his boss, the millionaire septuagenarian Virginia
Crock (Elaine Stritch), who owns an Entenmann's-like cake
factory and appropriately names her little brown Pomeranian
dog Muffin (Bam Bam). Willard is the only servant in the
Crock mansion, washing the carpets while in his cutaway
attire, driving the car, and fetching the madam's clothing from
her capacious closet. Willard gets together with his best pal,
Rusty (David Chappelle), who runs a small fried chicken
emporium, and together they kidnap Muffin. Somehow
Virginia, her special adviser Chip, and later the general
public, all believe that the chauffeur, and not the dog, is the
kidnap victim--which is fine by Willard and Rusty who cool
their heels waiting for the delivery of $5 million ransom.
While NY Times critic Stephen Holden considers Danny
DeVito as undertaker Grover to be the only successful cast
member "who succeeds in making something out of the
movie's nothing of a screenplay," it looks more as though
DeVito is willing to embarrass himself for a little extra cash.
A fan of the TV program "Hawaii-Five-O" who knows every bit
of Jack Lord's dialogue in much the way that the stockbrokers
of "Boiler Room" could have understudied Michael Douglas in
"Wall Street," DeVito is styled like a mad scientist obsessed
with collecting the innards of corpses. He is offered a large
payment for finding a body resembling Willard's and placing
the chauffeur's I.D. on the cadaver.
If Norm Macdonald did not employ a poker-faced
countenance throughout this dud he would have revealed
little besides embarrassment for going through the ungainly
lines afforded him by the two previously dexterous writers.
The comedy throughout "Screwed" is as luscious as a cake
baked in honor of Virginia's Crock's thirtieth birthday.
Rated PG-13. Running time: 90 minutes. (C) 2000 by
Harvey Karten, email@example.com
Copyright © 2000 Harvey Karten