In this epoch of children’s pop entertainment, where action figures still monopolize the landscape, it’s reassuring to know that kids can still be captivated by the simple spectacle of two goofy guys dropping things, walking into walls, making yet Another Fine Mess.
It’s far too soon to bestow upon Kenan (Thompson) and Kel (Mitchell) the iconic dimensions owned by Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Kramden and Norton . . . or, for that matter, Wayne and Garth.
But it’s also mildly amazing that in the three years that they’ve been doing their odd-couple shtick on the Nickelodeon network, Kenan and Kel have become cult figures among post-toddlers and preteens who make room in their crowded schedules to watch them on Saturday nights.
“Good Burger,” K&K;'s inevitable first movie, will satisfy their audience’s appetite for basic, messy silliness while leaving many grown-ups mildly bemused by the fuzzy obviousness of its humor, the gawky pacing of its sight gags and the second-handedness of its slapstick--almost all of which is redeemed by the eager but never cloying charm of its two stars.
The movie gives full rein to one of Kel’s recurring TV personas: Ed, the dread-locked idiot savant who’s always ready to take your order at Good Burger, a humble little joint that, as the movie begins, is in danger of being ground into oblivion by Mondo Burger, a glitzy competitor run by a smarmy little martinet named Kurt (Jan Schwieterman).
Among the Good Burger co-workers joining Ed in foiling Mondo’s evil machinations are Dexter (Kenan), a high school student who’s not above exploiting Ed for his own schemes; Monique (Shar Jackson from “Moesha”), a comely counter girl; and Otis (Abe Vigoda), who wakes up from perpetual stupor long enough to help the good guys throw icky stuff at the bad guys.
Sinbad heroically sheds his dignity to play Kenan’s hopelessly stuck-in-the-'70s teacher, while the great George Clinton drops by to help out in an impromptu performance of (what else?) “Do Fries Go With That Shake?”
It’s nowhere near a masterpiece. But then, few thought “Buck Privates” was a masterpiece when it came out in 1941. Yet it guaranteed Abbott and Costello’s marquee value for at least the next decade-and-a-half. By this standard, “Good Burger” may be just good enough (i.e. not too embarrassing) to pass mustard--um--muster.
* MPAA rating: PG for language, some comic violence and mild sex-related humor. Times guidelines: nothing to offend children, or even their parents.
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Kel Mitchell: Ed
Kenan Thompson: Dexter Reed
Sinbad: Mr. Wheat
Abe Vigoda: Otis
Shar Jackson: Monique
Dan Schneider: Mr. Bailey
Paramount Pictures presents, in association with Nickelodeon Movies, a Tollin/Robbins production. Director Brian Robbins. Producers Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins. Screenplay by Dan Schneider and Kevin Kopelow & Heath Seifert. Cinematographer Mac Ahlberg. Editor Anita Brandt-Burgoyne. Costumes Natasha Landau. Music Stewart Copeland. Production design Steven Jordan. Art director Robert J. Bacon. Set designer Charlie Vassar. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.