Ah, yet another film has emerged from the apparently bottomless fool’s goldmine known as Saturday Night Live. Very rarely, an unexpected movie gem will emerge from the skit-based comedy show. But that is not the case with A Night at the Roxbury, which successfully translates a vapid and empty skit into a vapid and empty film.
For those of you unfamiliar with the skit, the film thoughtfully provides a quick example right off the bat. The main characters are Steve and Doug Butabi (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan), two pathetic losers who (unaware of their loserdom) constantly try to pick up women at nightclubs.
The movie fleshes out the skit somewhat (not a hard task, given that there’s practically no substance to start with). During the day, Steve and Doug work for their father (Dan Hedaya) at his fake flower shop. But at night, their dreams turn to scoring at the local nightclubs (including the elusively exclusive Roxbury).
One night, their dreams come true, and the bumbling duo manage to get into the club of their dreams. There they mingle with celebritys (Richard Grieco), try to work a business deal with the owner (Chazz Palminteri), and are targeted by a couple of gold-digging women (Elisa Donovan and Gigi Rice).
At first, the Roxbury guys seem to fit the mold cast by successful SNL-to-film skits such as Wayne’s World or The Blues Brothers. There’s a pair of wacky and slightly dimwitted protagonists, and…well, that’s where the similarity ends. But the filmmakers seemed to miss one key difference: those successful films featured both strong, endearing characters, and a pair of the era’s finest comedians performing at their peak. A Night at the Roxbury has neither.
The Roxbury guys is (next to It’s Pat: The Movie) the flimsiest Saturday Night Live skit ever to cross the film adaptation threshhold. It truly is based on one joke: the losers who don’t know they’re losers. As a film, one joke will never make it…particularly when the same joke has been at the core of several films this year already (Almost Heroes, Meet the Deedles and BASEketball come to mind).
That leaves the movie up to Ferrell and Kattan. But their performances are rote and uninteresting. They’ve turned in much better performances on Saturday Night Live…but then, we weren’t confronted with them as the same characters for a full hour and a half.
The movie is amusing for about the length of a 3-5 minute skit. There are a few minor chuckles scattered throughout the picture, so it’s not a total loss…but nothing worth 90 minutes of your time.
A Night at the Roxbury aims little higher than its skit…and you could hardly pick a flimsier skit upon which to base a feature film. It’s a one-joke movie that doesn’t even have a good joke.