Los Angeles Times

A Night at the Roxbury


Friday October 2, 1998

     The "Saturday Night Live" skits featuring the head-bobbing, hip-shaking, we're-so-cool-it's-pathetic nightclub cruisers offered one of the few reasons to keep tuning in to the show, especially when Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan were joined at the bar by a similarly dressed guest star like Jim Carrey or Tom Hanks. There's a demented quality to the routine that keeps it fresh even when you know what's going to happen every time.
     Which doesn't mean that it was necessarily a good idea for "Clueless" writer-director Amy Heckerling to co-produce a whole movie about these hopeless Butabi brothers. Nevertheless, she and "SNL" honcho Lorne Michaels went ahead and handed the directing chores to TV veteran John Fortenberry.
     Together with Ferrell, Kattan and screenwriter-co-producer Steve Koren, they've given these guys . . . lives, for crying out loud! That is, if you call being past your mid-20s, living with your parents and working in your dad's fake-flower boutique with limited prospects a life.
     Certainly Kattan's Doug Butabi doesn't think it's much of a life compared with the thrill of being thrown out of, or rejected by, every dance club in L.A. Doug, you see, has this dream, mildly unfocused, of owning his own version of the red-hot Roxbury club, with his own velvet rope, bouncers and gorgeous women. Ferrell's Steve--no less dim than his brother--is down with the plan, except he's also drawn to the idea of a normal life with Emily (Molly Shannon), the girl who works with her dad (Dwayne Hickman) in the lamp store next to the flower shop.
     The most successful "SNL" spinoffs have been about people with dreams that are too big and visions that are too narrow. But unlike "Wayne's World" and "The Blues Brothers," it's hard to figure out which is lamer in "A Night at the Roxbury," the dream or the alternative. At times, one wants to join their dad (Dan Hedaya) and tell them to face reality and live within their limits. But their goofy quixotic quest goes on and on . . . and on.
     Kattan and Ferrell do their best to fill out the shallow Butabis. But there are times when you wish they'd get out of the way and give more room to such supporting players as the inimitable Hedaya, playing an even more blustery version of his exasperated dad in "Clueless." Or Shannon, whose cheeky blend of nerdiness and eroticism needs a broader canvas.
     Even Richard Grieco, cast in the role of a self-absorbed, club-hopping ex-TV star named Richard Grieco, is a revelation. If the Butabis deserve a movie of their own, so does this character.

A Night at the Roxbury, 1998. PG-13, for sex-related humor, language and some drug content, and for language. Times guideline: There's some sex talk, but no action. Paramount Pictures presents in association with SNL Studios, a Lorne Michaels and Amy Heckerling production. Directed by John Fortenberry. Produced by Lorne Michaels and Amy Heckerling. Written by Steve Koren and Will Ferrell & Chris Kattan. Executive producer Robert K. Weiss. Director of photography Francis Kenny. Production designer Steven Jordan. Edited by Jay Kamen. Costume designer Mona May. Music David Kitay. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. Will Ferrell as Steve Butabi. Chris Kattan as Doug Butabi. Molly Shannon as Emily. Jennifer Coolidge as Hottie Cop. Michael Duncan as Roxbury Bouncer. Richard Grieco as Himself. Loni Anderson as Barbara Butabi. Dan Hedaya as Kamehl Butabi.

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