SCORE! A Night at the Roxbury a surprisingly decent SNL offshoot

I’m going to review A Night at the Roxbury, so stand back. I know what you’re already thinking. “A Night at the Roxbury? Isn’t that the new Saturday Night Live movie? Doesn’t Andy know that Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny since Chevy Chase left the show in 1976? Doesn’t he know that Saturday Night Live movies are inherently unfunny?” Well, yeah, I know all that. I know that picking on SNL is a long-standing cliché among college students across the country. And the abuse is not entirely unwarranted, especially when it comes to the movies. For those of us who have seen It’s Pat, that’s ninety minutes of our lives right there that we’ll never get back. And not even comic genius Chris Farley could save The Coneheads from its own horribleness. And yet I’m here to tell you that A Night at the Roxbury wasn’t terrible. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was decent.

Before I even saw it, I had my doubts about Roxbury. After all, the Roxbury guys, as they’ve recently been dubbed, were the most one-dimensional of characters. They didn’t even speak. They just sort of danced like fools and people didn’t like them. And it’s not like they were mute in a lovable Charlie Chaplin kind of way, where every gesture and look communicates a world of bittersweet comic emotion. Nope, they’re just a couple of gyrating boobs. How could that possibly be stretched into an 80-minute film, I wondered? Truth be told, the only reason I even saw the movie was that I got a free ride to the movie theater and I had already seen Antz. As I entered the theater, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about the film I was about to see. Passing the rows of junior high school students to get to a seat in the center of the front row, I wondered, “Am I really here, seeing this movie that’s going to suck the life out of me?”

Imagine my surprise when nearly every single sight gag I had seen in all the trailers and commercials for this movie was wrapped up in an opening montage. In five minutes, everything I had seen them do on TV and everything I expected from the movie was laid out on the table. There was absolutely nothing left for them to do without completely rebuilding the characters right in front of me, and rebuild they did. Now don’t get ahead of me here. I’m not saying that the Roxbury guys turned into revolutionary characters in American cinema. As they appear in the movie, they’re pretty much your standard comedy duo. There’s a big one (Will Ferrell as Steve Bubati) and a little one (Chris Kattan as Doug Bubati), so right away comic formula dictates that the big one be a dumb guy with a heart of gold, the little one the go-getter who bosses him around. That wasn’t a surprise. What was surprising was the way that the writers toned the hackneyed aspects of both these characters. I expected them to be naïve, and they were, but not to the absurd point that a lot of comedies go these days. Sure, these guys aren’t exactly cool. Sure, they’re dumb. I knew that before I got to the theater. But very quickly, I saw that they knew it too.

Once I saw that Steve Koren and Will Ferrell had made an effort to write some humanity into these two characters, the whole film changed. While Roxbury could easily have been nothing more than a constant stream of “Look how clownish these guys are!” jokes it actually turned out to be a sentimental little picture about a couple of likable, well-rounded (if somewhat messed up) characters. I’ll admit it. By the end of the movie, I cared what happened to Steve and Doug Bubati. That’s something you don’t get from a lot of other recent comic heroes, like the Dumb and Dumber guys, or Beavis and Butthead. And it certainly helps Steve and Doug that Richard Grieco plays himself in the movie. By contrast, neither of the star characters seems quite as pathetic.

At this point, I would be a negligent movie reviewer if I failed to mention the homoerotic overtone that governs the entire film from start to finish. You may have noticed that Steve and Doug have the same last name. They’re brothers for a very good reason. I’m sure I’m not giving too much away when I tell you that the plot of Roxbury basically revolves around these guys’ attempts to find love and success in a crazy, topsy-turvy world. And they do find love, several times. But when push comes to shove, Steve and Doug’s only true loves are each other, and it’s not subtle. The fact that they’re actually brothers makes their relationship bizarre, yes, but also. . . so intriguing. . . Um. . . So anyway, I mean, if a hint of gayness is funny (and it always seems to be) then a hint of gay incest is drop dead hilarious, and A Night at the Roxbury successfully milks this logic for all it’s worth.

If you’re going to be seeing A Night at the Roxbury at some point in the near future, or perhaps on video, make sure you see it in a big group. Nobody will mind if you make comments in the movie theater at this particular film, and you’ll have a fine time if you have a few buddies to chortle at. It’s still a pretty good movie, but if you or your friends could throw a few zingers in there, it would be even better. So come on. . . It won’t kill you to go see A Night at the Roxbury.