What is love? Judge Roy Hrab isn't quite sure, but he hopes it doesn't hurt him too badly.
"Richard Grieco, you see right through me."
A Night At The Roxbury is an idiotic movie. It is also quite funny. It is one of those comedies that most people will either love or hate, much like Zoolander, Old School, and Anchorman. I find myself falling somewhere in between: A Night At The Roxbury is entertaining, but I'm embarrassed to admit it. Does this mean that everyone will hate me?
Facts of the Case
Doug (Chris Kattan, Corky Romano) and Steve Butabi (Will Ferrell, Zoolander) are slackers with semi-ambitious dreams. They want to get into the Roxbury nightclub, open their own nightclub, and get girlfriends. Unfortunately, they are too socially inept and dumb to accomplish any of these goals. Instead, they have to deal with the wrath of their perpetually exasperated father, Kamehl Butabi (Dan Hedaya, Commando), owner of a fake plant store. He wants his sons to work at the shop and grow up. Also, he wants Steve to marry Emily Sanderson (Molly Shannon, American Splendor), daughter of the owner of the lamp store next door, so the businesses can merge. How will it end? How does Richard Grieco (21 Jump Street) fit in the picture? And what's the deal with the perverse obsession about being groped that Mr. Zadir (Chazz Palminteri, Analyze This), owner of the Roxbury, suffers from?
The club-hopping and head-bobbing Butabi brothers made their debut on Saturday Night Live in the mid-1990s with guest star Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) appearing as a third brother. It became a recurring sketch, but the first appearance remains the most funny. Like all recurring SNL sketches in the 1990s, a movie just had to be produced. However, unlike most of the SNL-based movie carnage of the '90s (It's Pat, Stuart Saves His Family, Superstar), A Night At The Roxbury succeeds for the most part. Why? Because it keeps things simple, and all the people involved fully embrace the silliness of the endeavor.
There's something to be said for a movie that knows exactly what it is. The Butabi brothers of television existed either in a nightclub or in a car traveling to a nightclub. That is pretty ridiculous and flimsy material upon which to premise a movie. You need more; for example, a domestic and workplace setting. So, what does the movie give us? Let's see: a family fortune based on a fake plant store; a father of Yemeni descent; and a mother (Loni Anderson, WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete First Season) who gets a new chin every year. Not bad. Throw in Richard Grieco (playing himself), some Fluffi Whip, and a reference to Scott Baio, then mix it all together and you've got a gloriously random and nonsensical film. As Doug and Steve would say: Score!
The film never strays from this path. It follows the shallow and blissfully stupid Doug and Steve as they bumble and stumble from one scene to the next. They don't grow as people, learn lessons, or overcome any particularly daunting obstacles.
The film isn't all mindlessness. It manages to brutally mock a trio of movies that take themselves far too seriously: Saturday Night Fever, Say Anything, and Jerry McGuire. Try watching those films after watching this. You won't be able to keep a straight face.
Another important element of the film is that it doesn't overstay its welcome. The official runtime is 81 minutes, including the opening and closing credits. It breezes by.
Of course, the main reason the movie succeeds is the performances. They all know it's time to camp it up. Kattan and Ferrell have great comedic timing together. The fact they are, and look, far older than their characters are supposed to be makes it even better. Hedaya and Shannon are solid as well. However, Palminteri steals the movie whenever he is on screen with his over-the-top performance as the zany Mr. Zadir. It's perfect. I almost wish there was a movie based on his character. Almost. Grieco plays himself well and the look that he gives when Kattan asks him "So is Johnny Depp meeting you here or what?" is priceless.
The film is technically sound. The video transfer gets across the many colorful outfits, although there is some marking on the print that needs cleaning-up. The surround audio is excellent and does justice to the dance music loaded soundtrack.
The extras on this "Special Collector's Edition" consist of four featurettes with a combined runtime of about 57 minutes. "Score! Reliving A Night At The Roxbury" (about 24 minutes) is a making-of featurette containing interviews with most of the actors (except Grieco) during production. It also has what appear to be more recently recorded interviews with those behind the production, such as producer Amy Heckerling (Clueless), director John Fortenberry (Rescue Me: The Complete First Season), and co-writer Steve Koren (Bruce Almighty). The interviews include comments on the origins of the Butabi brothers, the brother's mannerisms, and adapting the characters for film. "Roxbury Rags: Costume & Fashion Guide Featurette" (about nine minutes) focuses on the costumes and clothing and contains an interview with the costume designer. "Do That Dance!" (about five minutes) centers on the choreography and features an interview with the choreographer. "Making The List" (about nine minutes) is about nightclubs.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is a juvenile movie. It's not intelligent, the story (or what resembles one) and the characters are thin, the dialogue is ham-fisted to the extreme, and the acting is high camp. It's possible that your IQ may drop a few points in the course of watching the film. These qualities will make the movie easy to hate for some. If you're seeking an uplifting artistic experience, look elsewhere. Let me put it this way: if you don't think the statement "Are you seeing planes? Is your name Tattoo? Because I swear to God, you're living on Fantasy Island" is funny then you should avoid this movie like the plague.
Ultimately, I think that whether you enjoy A Night At The Roxbury depends highly on your state of mind going into it. If you're in a serious mood, then you won't like this movie. If you're feeling goofy, then you won't be disappointed. I must admit that I refused to watch this movie for years because it looked completely pathetic to me. Clearly, that's not how I feel at this moment. Go figure.
Love it or hate, and for better or for worse, there's no denying that A Night At The Roxbury has left a mark on North American popular culture: Is it possible to listen to Haddaway's "What Is Love" without picturing the Butabi brothers bobbing their heads?
I don't think A Night At The Roxbury needs or deserves a "Special Collector's Edition." If you already own it, I wouldn't be in a rush to buy this edition. But I'm not particularly fond of extras in the first place. I leave it for you to decide, dear reader.
Anyway, there are more important questions requiring answers. Is A Night At The Roxbury a great movie? Not by any stretch. Should it be a crime to like this movie? I'm sure many feel it should. Is it a funny movie? No…Yes! Let's be honest, unlike some films, A Night At The Roxbury doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It wears its immaturity on its sleeve. If you're pressed for time and looking for some good-natured wacky entertainment without having to think (at all), it's difficult to do better than this.
At the risk of being forced off the bench for gross judicial misconduct: not guilty. Sometimes the court needs to get silly and laugh.
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Scales of Justice
• "Score! Reliving A Night At The Roxbury"
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