Owen Gleiberman
May 19, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Screwed

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
81 minutes
performer
Danny DeVito, Norm Macdonald, Dave Chappelle, Elaine Stritch
director
Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
author
Scott Alexander
genre
Comedy

We gave it a F

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski want to take their medicine. They’re the screenwriting duo who penned ”Ed Wood,” ”The People vs. Larry Flynt,” and ”Man on the Moon” — marvelously original ironic biopics in which the lower the hero falls in the world’s eyes, the higher he rises in ours. Each of these movies was heady, audacious, and a box office dud. Combined, they grossed less money — $5.9 million, $20 million, and $35 million, respectively — than ”Deuce Bigalow” or ”Blue Streak” alone. And so Alexander and Karaszewski are trying to reassert their value. In their first outing as writer-directors, they’ve made a black-comic farce called Screwed, and it’s a shrill, stupid, brickbat-blatant piece of hackwork that practically sweats to be ”commercial.”

The film stars Norm Macdonald, who, even when he’s being interviewed, comes off like a zombie impersonating a game-show host; when he attempts to act, he’s even stiffer. He plays Willard, manservant to Miss Crock (Elaine Stritch), a sadistic biddy who treats him worse than her dog. Instead of quitting, he comes up with a convoluted scheme to kidnap the pooch, and then himself. He and his partner (Dave Chappelle) enlist the aid of an undertaker played by Danny DeVito, who, beneath a Musketeer beard and comb-over fright wig, looks and sounds exactly like Danny DeVito.

There are poo-poo jokes, dental-plate jokes, moldy-corpse jokes, Jack Lord jokes, and ”old lady getting dragged down the stairs” jokes. With any other filmmakers, I would have called this cynicism. In the case of Alexander and Karaszewski, it’s more like masochism: They appear to be locking themselves in the screenwriters’ doghouse and reveling in their worst notions of what they think Hollywood wants. Good Scott! Good Larry! Now, please, go back to doing what you do so well.

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