Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude and Sex-Related Humor, Nudity, Language, some Violence and brief Drug Content
Directed by: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
Written by: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Norm Macdonald, Dave Chappelle, Danny DeVito, Elaine Stritch, Daniel Benzali, Sarah Silverman & Sherman Hemsley
For a period in the 90’s, Norm Macdonald delivered his unique brand of humor on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Norm also followed in the steps of countless other SNL stars (Sandler, Myers, Ferrell) and headlined two comedies in an attempt to become a big screen comedic star. With 1998’s okay enough DIRTY WORK flopping at the box office and not leaving much of an impact on mainstream audiences, Norm found a second chance with 2000’s SCREWED. Unfortunately, this would-be comedy earns its descriptive title. SCREWED wastes comedic talent on a mediocre, lazy script. There are a few mild chuckles to be found, but most of the 81-minute running time is spent on dusty jokes and dead air.
Willard Fillmore (Norm Macdonald) has worked fifteen years as a servant for crotchety Mrs. Crock (Elaine Stritch). Crock is as wealthy as she is stingy and Willard is tired of her constant abuse. After a particularly miserable Christmas, Willard decides to get revenge on Crock by kidnapping her tiny dog and ransoming it for 1 million dollars. When the dog escapes, Crock misinterprets the ransom note and assumes that Willard has been kidnapped. Willard and his best friend Rusty (Dave Chappelle) decide to try to manipulate the chaotic situation in their favor. This ever-changing scheme involves a higher ransom and the help of creepy mortician Grover (Danny DeVito). However, things quickly go off the rails when Crock refuses to pay the ransom and hard-headed Detective Tom Dewey (Daniel Benzali) begins putting the pieces together. Now, Willard, Rusty and Grover are just trying to avoid getting screwed! See what I did there? If this movie isn’t going to try, then why should I?
To be perfectly honest, I love Norm Macdonald. His wacky persona cracks me up. Though his goofy line delivery works in stand-up comedy and podcasts, Norm’s sense of humor doesn’t seem to translate well onto film. That or he just got saddled with two movies that were undeserving of his talent. At least, DIRTY WORK had a few hilarious moments and kept an energetic momentum going throughout. SCREWED feels dead on its feet from start to finish. The film runs at 81 minutes (counting credits) and feels like an agonizingly long experience. Much of this comes from sheer laziness and unfunny gags. The film has a poop joke here, some overused dialogue there, and is half-assed the whole way through. Dave Chappelle knocks people out with desk lamps as a nervous habit. Isn’t that funny? Elaine Stritch yells a lot as the grumpy old lady. Doesn’t that sound hysterical? Also, nearly everybody gets double crossed and the plot forgets to make these bits funny. This is exactly what you want to see in a Norm Macdonald comedy, right?
SCREWED packs in a lot of plot twists that might have been funny if the tiniest piece of discernible effort had been put into the screenplay or performances. Norm seems to be phoning it in as Willard and the same can be said about Dave Chappelle as his best friend. At least, Danny DeVito attempted to have some fun as the ghoulish mortician and elicited a handful of chuckles from me. His character becomes unfunny around the final third of the film though, when the screenplay feels the need to throw in as many revelations as possible and neglects to give him much to do. Elaine Stritch seemed to be taking this role purely for a quick paycheck. Meanwhile, Sarah Silverman plays a side character who comes out of nowhere and really doesn’t receive anything that’s worthy of a single laugh.
The extent of SCREWED’s laziness fully comes through in an obviously wacky score that seems like it was plucked out of a million other generic comedies and cinematography that’s just plain ugly to look at. I know that the only connection between these two films is Norm Macdonald, but DIRTY WORK was a far superior movie and even that wasn’t extraordinarily funny. SCREWED has mostly been forgotten to the sands of time. This movie bombed during its theatrical run (failing to make back enough to cover its 10 million dollar budget) and though some folks online consider it to be underrated, I found it to be an almost painfully unfunny film to sit through. It’s a real pity that Norm Macdonald couldn’t make it big in Hollywood. His goofy sense of humor works wonders and I consider him to be among the very best that SNL ever had to offer. A decision to watch SCREWED will leave you screwed out of 81 minutes of your life. Sorry, couldn’t resist.