Chris Kattan, Vinessa Shaw, ...
Credit: Corky Romano: Jon Farmer

Chris Kattan looks like an organ-grinder’s monkey who just got his cap stolen and can’t figure out who to blame. On ”Saturday Night Live,” where he specializes in playing infantile spasmodic live wires, he throws himself into characters like the apple-chomping manimal Mr. Peepers and the slightly less beastly Latino minx Mango with such antic physicality that it’s obvious he’s doing all that he can to be a crazed, anarchic dervish — a human tornado in the spirit of Jim Carrey, Danny Kaye, and Curly Howard. Yet this brand of slapstick inanity requires a blissful lack of self-consciousness, and Kattan, a diminutive imp, is hobbled by his overly transparent eagerness to please. That crooked smear of a smile, in which he makes it look as if his teeth had been invisibly wired together, is a 5-year-old’s party trick, and his itchy body movements have a desperate, get-a-load-of-me edge, as if he feared that we’d look away if he were any less frantic.

It might be courting hyperbole to call Corky Romano the single worst movie ever to feature an ”SNL” cast member (Dan Aykroyd hit some pretty arid valleys), but I’m willing to go out on a critical limb and rank it among the all-time bottom dozen. Kattan’s Corky, who is introduced as he performs a mincing sing-along to a-ha’s ”Take On Me,” is the mild, stumblebum son of a mobster (Peter Falk). He favors Sleepytime tea and neckties that look as if they’d been painted with spills of multicolored Pepto-Bismol, but despite these proclivities, he is sent undercover as an FBI agent to steal the evidence gathered against his family. The big joke — the only joke — is that Corky, as Eddie Murphy once observed of Michael Jackson, is ”not the most masculine dude in the world,” yet ”Corky Romano” introduces this sissy boy of a hero and proceeds to bland out everything that’s ridiculous about him.

There are a few token scenes built around Kattan’s trademark penchant for the hyper-jitters. He delivers a lecture while wired to his gills on cocaine and fires a machine gun in a dozen different directions at once. After that, the movie deflates, and it’s hard to avoid the feeling that in this comedy produced by Disney, the flaky Corky has been forced to act more and more…normal. He’s even contrasted, quite pointedly, with a macho mobster (Chris Penn) who turns out to be a repressed homosexual. Does anyone really want to see Chris Kattan get in touch with his inner straight arrow? Mango, for one, would have thrown a hissy fit.

Corky Romano
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