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A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY

by: Michael Dequina

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--they 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 stony 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.

RATING: * (out of *****)

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