A Night at the Roxbury (1998)

D: John Fortenberry, Peter Markle
S: Chris Kattan, Will Ferrell

Amiable dumbfest following Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell, dimwit niteclub-obsessed brothers whose dreams extend only to being hip and owning their own club, but who haven't the faintest clue about either. Infectuously silly and wisely short, the film is bouyed by the wacky performances of its leads playing a cross between Mike Meyers and Dan Carvey in Wayne's World and Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Dan Hedeya and Loni Anderson turn up in support, and there is an extended cameo from Richard Greico which has strong echoes of Rob Lowe's appearence in Wayne's World, not so much in terms of his character, but the kind of self-referential in-jokey humour which underlies the whole enterprise. There are one or two movie and television references in there too, with a rather amusing take on The Graduate which provides the film with its surreal, climatic assertion that brotherly bonds are more important than girls. Most surprising of all is the zany, uncredited turn by Chazz Palmenteri as an ass-obsessed club owner.

The film's plot isn't up to much, being basically a series of set ups for goofy exchanges between characters. The script was written by a small committee of creditd and uncredited writers, including the two stars, uncredited Jim Carrey and uncredied co-producer Amy Heckerling. There's some pretty typical preadolescent thematic material there, with the 'boys' resisting their father's attempts to teach them responsibility and their attitudes to women fluctuating between fascination and repulsion until they encounter sex for the first time to their immense dumbfoundment. As is the nature of postmodern comedy though, plot is ultimately an incidental series of references to other things which depends upon the audience's willing participation in the gag. Given the fact that the two actors are clearly much too old to even pretend to be teenagers, the films is as much as a parody of itself as straight narrative, and its jokes at the expense of itself work precisely because everything is so hilariously awful and obvious.

This kind of tail chasing can backfire and become smug, but co-directors John Fortenberry and Peter Markle keep the film moving at a pace which helps it pass quickly. Kattan and Ferrell hold the centre very well, though if you can't take the first few minutes, you're probably not going to enoy the rest either. Its level of humour is well below the tolerance of most discerning viewers, but it does raise a happy smile of feel-goofy well being if you're in the right frame of mind to begin with. It's not a serious film, so why take it seriously? Relax and let it go about its business, you might be surprised.

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1999.