The first question, of course, is why? Why take a Saturday Night Live
sketch that was annoying, repetitive and dull in its three-minute form
and expand it into a feature-length film? The few SNL sketches that made
financially or artistically successful transitions to the big screen
(''The Blues Brothers,'' "Wayne's World'' and Al Franken's
underappreciated comedy/drama ''Stuart Saves His Family") were based on
characters who were at least interesting. The most painful SNL movies
("The Coneheads" and "It's Pat") sprung from one note characters in one
In the case of the Butabi brothers, we're talking about half note
characters in no joke sketches. For those of you lucky enough to have
missed their endless SNL appearances, here's a complete description of
the sketches. Dressed in bad outfits, the boys bop their heads to a disco
tune and bash their bodies into startled women. That's it. Which again
begs the question, why, why, why make a movie out of this?
Enough whining. They made one and my job description dictated that I see
it, then write about it, so here we go. "A Night at the Roxbury" is bad.
There are infrequent humorous moments, a few good supporting performances
and a genuinely funny wedding scene, but these are most certainly not
enough to salvage this sad little movie.
Here's the run-down. Steve and Doug Butabi are two clueless losers who
accost women in the few L.A. nightclubs that will grant them entry. Steve
(Will Ferrell) is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen and Doug (the
reptilian Chris Kattan) is his surly brother, angry over the second class
treatment he receives from his father. The boys live with their folks
(Dan Hedaya and Loni Anderson) and work in Pop's artificial flower store.
Dwayne Hickman, manager of the neighboring lamp store, is anxious to pair
his daughter (Molly Shannon) with Steve, and father Butabi loves the idea,
envisioning an expansion of his store should the union ever occur.
The brothers finally gain entry to the trendy Roxbury when Richard Grieco,
anxious to avoid a lawsuit after rear-ending the boys' vehicle, ushers
them into the nightclub. They bond with club owner Chazz Palminteri and
pitch their peculiar idea for a disco (don't ask), while Colin Quinn, the
owner's right hand man, glowers in the background. Two opportunistic
women latch onto the brothers. Quinn keeps the boys away from Palminteri.
Dad cuts off their use of the car, the brothers become estranged, a
wedding is arranged, blah, blah, blah.
The film's only redeeming moments come with the wedding scene, which
offers genuinely funny references to "The Graduate," "Say Anything" and
"Jerry Maguire." Molly Shannon's performance as a sexually assertive
young woman is appealing, as are cameos from former "Kid in the Hall"
Mark McKinney and Lochlyn Munro (whose spirited work as Cliff salvaged
the otherwise disposable "Dead Man on Campus").
Aside from that, the film offers virtually no rewards, although I found
Ferrell and Kattan's desperate attempts to add depth to their empty
characters perversely fascinating. I also found it impossible to take my
eyes off Richard Grieco, looking doughy and smarmy in a frightening cameo.
When "A Night at the Roxbury" hits cable, it might be worth a viewing, if
only to see the depths reached by Lorne Michaels' latter day SNL projects.
Until then, stay as far away from the Roxbury as you possibly can. Don't
reward drivel like this with your hard-earned dollars.
Copyright © 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott