“Look at me now, people wonder how I got into this game,” croons Joe Piscopo in Brian Herzlinger’s mindless musical comedy “How Sweet It Is.” It’s a valid question: Piscopo — one of the two break-out stars in the 1980s class of “Saturday Night Live” (the other was Eddie Murphy) — isn’t just too good for this film, he’s too good to be giving it this much effort.
Piscopo plays theater director Jack Cosmo, a gambler who’s squandered his talent and a $130,000 loan from the local mob boss. To repay his debt, Big Mike (Paul Sorvino) demands that Cosmo stage a show about a candy fugue called, well, check the title. Worse, Big Mike casts his underworld associates, who include a dancing crack fiend (Jonathan Slavin), a doctor who performs underground transsexual operations (Michael Guarnera), and an undercover FBI agent (Erich Bergen) with the voice of an angel — or at least an “American Idol” contestant.
What follows is your standard backstage nonsense. Among the humorless absurdities: a shock-therapy gag where the drug addict confronts an actor dressed as his mother’s hairy mole, and a bit where the truly talented Erika Christensen, as Piscopo’s daughter, must shout “Where are my trannies!” before a half-dozen divas in rainbow tutus scurry off to sing about chocolate. But the most ludicrous is Herzlinger and co-writer Jay Black’s bluff that the rote ditties in this play-within-a-play deserve a tearful standing ovation. Hey, showbiz is full of dreamers.
“How Sweet It Is.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. Playing: AMC Norwalk