Directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Norm MacDonald, Dave Chappelle, Elaine Stritch, Danny DeVito, Sherman Hemsley, Sarah Silverman, Daniel Benzali.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, nudity, language, some violence and brief drug content.

Review by Matt Heffernan
May 13, 2000

How do I feel after watching this film? Consult the title.

Norm Macdonald stars as Willard Fillmore, a butler for Miss Crock (Elaine Stritch), the president of a baked goods company. His father served her for 30 years, and now Willard is in his 15th year of service for the ungrateful old woman. When he is refused a new uniform for Christmas (he still wears his father's old one), Willard lashes out at her.

After literally spending the night in the doghouse, he learns that Miss Crock intends to fire him, right on Christmas Day. He gets his friend Rusty Hayes (Dave Chappelle) to help him kidnap her precious dog for a million-dollar ransom. The dog escapes, but Miss Crock is still left a ransom note, which she assumes is for Willard. Now, Willard has to fake his own kidnapping with Rusty's help, and even his own death with the help of a mortician named Grover Cleaver (Danny DeVito).

As you have surely noticed, each of the three conspirators are named after American presidents. That, I'm afraid, is the most creative thing in Screwed. This film is the first directorial effort for Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who have recently written screenplays for Tim Burton (Ed Wood) and Milos Forman (The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon). Unlike those respectable works, this film is more on the level of their inaugural work: Problem Child. The tone is basically that of a subpar "Three Stooges" short, mercilessly extended to feature length.

The real shame is that so many talented actors were wasted in the process. DeVito merely rehashes his performance in Batman Returns, except that he is never given anything funny to say or do. The rest of the cast was lost trying to make something of this pathetic screenplay. Worst off is MacDonald, whose brand of humor has never been properly captured on screen. He can be so brilliant, but in this tired situation, his skills are of no use.

If I had to pick the absolute stupidest thing in the film, it would have to be Willard and Rusty's escape from the police. They are upstairs in the precinct talking to Daniel Benzali (who allowed himself to be typecast as a Kojak-like cop), then they run out of the office (filled with cops), run downstairs and out of the building, into a police car parked on the curb. Luckily, the keys were in the ignition, so they got away in a poorly structured car chase. Were they trying to be inventive or funny? Irony was out of the question, so the scene just sits there, like the rest of the film -- existing for no other purpose than to potentially ruin the careers of everybody involved.

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Screwed (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan