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Dana Carvey’s ‘Clean Slate’ Chalks Up...

<i> Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section</i>

Despite the talents of Dana Carvey, what made most kids laugh the hardest in this comedy was his sidekick--a dog with a depth-perception problem.

While his master can’t remember his life from day to day, Baby can’t make it through his doggy door. He can smell his food but can’t find the dish. Loyal and brave, he snarls and leaps at his master’s enemies but misses and lands in the closet.

For younger kids, the dog made the movie.

“I thought it was real good,” said Sasha Chiampi, 8. All she remembered from the film afterward was “this dog who can’t find where his dog door is, so he ran into the door.”

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Here are the results from a small, unscientific survey, asking kids, “Who was funnier, Carvey or the dog? “

Sasha: “The dog.”

Jon Schrank, 12: “The dog.”

Bianca Rivas, 6: “The dog.”

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Leslie Rivas, 12: “The dog. . . . Well, both.”

“It was OK,” said Leslie who found that “some parts were boring; some parts were good.”

The slowest part, she said, was “the whole beginning” when Carvey as private investigator M.L. Pogue has to bring himself up to date each morning by playing a tape recording explaining his amnesia and what happened to him the day before. “I got it after three minutes,” Leslie said.

Leslie’s whole family came because they all like Carvey from his sketches on TV’s “Saturday Night Live.” But Leslie said she thought he was funnier in a previous role, as Wayne’s sidekick, Garth, in the movie “Wayne’s World” and its sequel, “Wayne’s World 2.”

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“Clean Slate,” Jon said, “wasn’t as funny as other movies I’ve seen, like ‘Ace Ventura.’ ” Jon said he preferred Jim Carrey, another sketch comedian who just made his feature film debut in that movie. “He’s funnier and has a split personality,” he said.

If Carvey’s humor is more subdued than it was in “Wayne’s World,” he plays a similarly sweet nerd who is pursued by gorgeous women. He still conveys with only his jerky eye movements the confusion of a brain that’s trying hard but just doesn’t get it.

Personally, I laughed as much at Carvey as at the dog, altogether about six times, a moderate score on my own laugh-o-meter. Especially funny were Carvey’s attempts to cover up his memory loss at a surprise birthday party, and a scene where, in the midst of being chased by his enemies, he lands on a darkened stage and is mistaken for a lecturer in anthropology.

There is isolated profanity, and the sex scenes are mostly silly. Carvey’s kisses with Valeria Golino (of “Hot Shots”) are probably the most chaste in recent movie history.

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In one running gag, a colleague asks Pogue to find out who is sleeping with his fiancee. Pogue becomes increasingly nervous as all signs--including handcuffs on the bedpost--begin pointing to him as the prime suspect.

In all, there’s more adult humor than kid humor in this plot. Kids who liked “Groundhog Day,” a story about a reporter who must repeat the same day until he gets it right, will probably be able to sit through this one. But for little ones especially, there’s not much except the dog.


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