Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:25 - Released 5/12/00

Many critics predicted that Screwed, written and directed by the successful writing team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who collaborated on the screenplays for Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man On The Moon, all respected titles), and starring Norm Macdonald and Danny DeVito, would be this year's There's Something About Mary.

This is disappointingly far from the case.

Screwed starts out lame and wanders its way through a labyrinth of half-baked ideas and contrivances, occasionally scoring a chuckle but generally resulting in the senseless waste of a perfectly good hour and a half. The fact that the film was never screened for critics is a telltale sign that it lacks support, even from its own producers. Perhaps the cleverest thing about it is the fact that, if one cares to notice, several of the lead characters' names are patterned after former U.S. presidents, or presidential contenders. But if that's the best thing it has going for it, that isn't saying much.

The story begins when Willard Fillmore (Macdonald), the servant of a nasty bakery tycoon named Miss Crock (Elaine Stritch), tires of the abuse the old lady has heaped on him all his life, and decides to do something about it. He and his friend, Rusty B. Hayes (Chappelle), kidnap her annoying little dog and demand $1 million for its release. But the dog soon escapes and returns home before Miss Crock finds the ransom note, which leads her to believe that it is in fact Willard that has been kidnapped. Adjusting to this new turn of events, Willard and Rusty up the ransom to $5 mil, and arrange with coroner Grover Cleaver (DeVito) to produce a dead body that looks like Willard, so that after they have the cash, they can disappear and make it look like Willard was murdered. Needless to say, everything goes awry, and eventually the old bat is kidnapped herself, while her assistant Chester "Chip" Oswald (Sherman Hemsley) takes over the bakery, and Detective Tom Dewey (Daniel Benzali) stays within one step of solving the case.

I don't really understand how Norm Macdonald, who, in my opinion, was one of the best writer/anchors ever for Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update," could have sunk to this level of pratfalls and stooge humor. I think his desire for a career-saving megahit has warped his ability to judge, or else he's just getting so few offers these days, he's desperate to stay in the public eye. As for DeVito, well . . . he's usually miles above this.

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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