Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:27 - Released 10/2/98

Little did we know in 1975 that the offbeat NBC television show known as Saturday Night Live would still be running a quarter of a century later. The show and its producer, Lorne Michaels, have won Emmy after Emmy, spawning hundreds of hilarious sketches, dozens of memorable characters, and several feature films. The success of The Blues Brothers (1980), the first of the SNL spinoff movies, gave the impression that the feature industry would be a lucrative avenue for ideas based on the show’s sketches. But most of the subsequent SNL-based films have been forgettable (with the possible exception of Wayne’s World [1992], which did cause a ripple). A Night At The Roxbury, starring SNL veterans Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan, is definitely no exception. Though the sketches featuring the two head-bopping losers have sometimes been hysterical on the show, the premise just doesn’t translate to a feature film.

Why is this? It’s because the whole point of these guys is that they have no lives. They have no personalities, they have almost never had any lines except the occasional “What’s up? Wanna dance?” spoken to an attractive but disgusted female who subsequently gets bounced off the set by their overexcited dancing style. Trying to infuse these characters with a story is killing the whole joke. What works in the three-minute scene is that we don’t know who they are or why they got there. But in this film, written by Ferrell and Steve Koren, their lame story is explained in painfully shallow terms.

The guys are two brothers, Steve and Doug Butabi, whose father (Dan Hedaya) runs a silk flower shop in New York City. The boys work there part time, but just like John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever, they only work to make money for club hopping. Unlike Travolta’s character, however, they never get into the clubs they want. They usually stand in line outside, trying to look cool in their shiny silk shirts, rubbing their noses and hitting on women. Finally, Doug (Kattan), “the smart one,” gets an idea: If they can’t get into the Roxbury, they will open a club of their own.

This is all well and good, but their father has other plans. He wants Steve (Ferrell), “the looker,” to marry the girl-next-door, Emily (fellow SNL-er Molly Shannon), whose father (Dwayne Hickman) owns a lamp shop. Then the two stores can be combined and Steve and Emily can be co-owners of the first lamp-and-flower boutique in history. Emily, who claims to have a crush on Steve, is all for this idea, but Steve is not interested.

Finally, through an accident, they do get into the Roxbury and are therefore mistaken by everyone as important. For a short period they enjoy the sweet life of celebrity, and try to implement their plan to get a new club started. But they are soon discovered to be the losers that they are, and are back on the street in no time.

Despite the fact that Ferrell and Kattan are two of the funniest, most energetic people on SNL right now, this film's story is pointless and most attempts at humor fall flat. Directors John Fortenberry and Peter Markle do nothing to help the situation, presumably because they feel Ferrell and Kattan know what they're doing, trying to breathe life into characters that have none. But these guys are meant to be monosyllabic, two-dimensional cutouts. Forcing them to live longer than five minutes is too painful to watch.

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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