Monday, June 23, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXI

A Night at the Roxbury
Why are almost all of the movies that spin out of Saturday Night Live so bad? While a harmless bit of fun, this movie is yet another example that a sketch or a set of recurring characters might not be enough to base a movie on. Best for SNL actors and alumni to parlay their acting skills in original movies, perhaps. That said, this is the story of two brothers hung up on Euro-trash nightclub-based night life -- and each other. They have a dream: a dream to break away from their father's silk plant store and open a club of their own. In a way, their dream comes true as they become estranged, Will Ferrell becomes engaged to the girl next door (an oversexed Molly Shannon), and their primary idea for a nightclub -- one in which the outside is decorated like the inside and vice versa (inspired by the many hours they spend standing in line... and the many clubs they're denied entrance to) -- gets implemented off by a homophobic, paranoid club owner. In the end, they reconcile their shallow differences and step into their new roles, but there's little satisfaction in the conclusion. While the physical comedy elicits some giggles, the Richard Grieco and Loni Anderson cameos are wasted -- as is Dan Hedaya's entire role as the brothers' father. Worth watching only -- only -- if you're a fan of Ferrell and Chris Kattan, whose fey rubberlegging fills some time but disappoints overall.

Jesus Christ Superstar
An amazing movie on several levels. I grew up listening to the rock opera's soundtrack -- and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's score and lyrics continue to impress me to this day. This is the way rock operas should be done. The on-location filming in Israel adds a lot to the movie's visuals, as does the scant costuming. Very well done, minimally. But the movie impresses more as a modern-day take on the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ. Carl Anderson's Judas Iscariot shines throughout, momentarily disappointing but then impressing with his realization -- and self-doubt -- that his betrayal was not his own free action. Instead, he was a pawn in a larger plot just like other people involved. Similarly, Ted Neeley's Jesus Christ steps out with an extremely flexible, powerful voice -- and another great scene involving self-doubt in which Jesus resolves to sacrifice himself but questions God's motivations and the eventual outcome of his martyrdom. But as strong as those two actors -- and characters -- are, it was Joshua Mostel's King Herod that stole the show for me. His hedonistic portrayal of the king reminded me of Howard Volman's old Flo character that helped revitalize the Turtles by way of the Mothers of Invention. A brilliant song, albeit a short scene. An interesting parallel watch may be the Mr. Show sketch "Jeepers Creepers Semi-Star," in which Jack Black reprises Neeley's role in a dead-on send up of the movie's opening scenes. In fact, the first time I started watching the movie, I had to stop because Mr. Show's parody loomed so large in my memory. Spot on, both.

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