Back in 1998 the reaction to “A Night at the Roxbury” was nothing short of cancerous. Critics took out their knives and laid waste to the SNL inspired picture, some going as far to dub it the worst film of its respective year. When you consider the same 12 months gave viewers “Patch Adams”, that’s just being cruel.

“A Night at the Roxbury” isn’t a great film but upon revisiting it in 2010 there’s a surprising amount to like, and an interesting amount of reflection to be carried out. For instance it is fascinating to view how the careers of leading men Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan have developed (Ferrell’s a huge star, Kattan is now an almost completely forgotten SNL footnote), and to witness the amount of fresh faced supporting talent the film offers (Eva Mendes, Molly Shannon and Michael Clarke Duncan). “Roxbury” is even at a minor 82 minutes overstretched, but this is actually a comedy that offers a relatively respectable quota of laughs and provides two amusing lead performances from its poster boys.

Steve Butabi (Will Ferrell) and Doug Butabi (Chris Kattan) are brothers who spend all night clubbing, and trying (but always failing) to score with women. They have a dream of operating their own nightclub, and when they manage to get access to the hottest club in town and have a discussion with its owner (Chazz Palminteri) they see an opening to have their ambitions realized. However the duo have to contend with a doubting father (Dan Hedaya) and several other obstacles before they can start to build on their nightlife fantasy.

“Roxbury” is an undeniably dumb hunk of American comedy, but it generates giggles and warmth on the back of Kattan and Ferrell’s game performances. As a pair they make a decent double act, Kattan in particular filling the film with high energy slapstick and physical lunacy. Back in 1998 if audiences were told one of these men was to become a key player on the Hollywood comedy scene, I’d be confident most would look to Kattan. Ferrell is perfectly solid, but Kattan gets most of the script’s best lines and the film’s most rewarding moments, looping them around his little figure and spinning them for all they’re worth. The film rests entirely on Ferrell and Kattan and they pull out some heavy comedic lifting to make their one joke premise into a passable diversion. Chazz Palminteri doesn’t get much to do (and is victim to a weak running gag) but the film is also peppered with appearances from other famous folk. TV star Richard Grieco actually works as an important plot device and more astute film fans won’t fail to recognise a young Eva Mendes, comedy stalwart Jennifer Coolidge and a pre-“Green Mile” Michael Clarke Duncan.

The screenplay (which Kattan and Ferrell played a large part in creating) actually does an ok job of morphing the simple SNL sketch on which the project is based into a motion picture. Some of the jokes do eventually get repetitive (“you from outta town?) but given how linear the original shorts were, it’s nothing short of remarkable that they’ve been transformed into a fun way to spend 82 minutes. The plot is extremely basic and like all SNL films the aim is always with the gags rather than the narrative, although “Roxbury” doesn’t fire out the jokes with the same rapidity as other SNL pictures. Most movies based on the sketch show run a fast paced stream of multiple larks a minute; “Roxbury” displays slightly more restraint and aims for a quality over quantity motive. It doesn’t always work, but the thought is surely appreciated.

The soundtrack adds an extra dimension of overblown silliness to proceedings, supplementing the film’s cheeky tone nicely. “Roxbury” is no smarter than either of its idiotic metrosexual protagonists, but it exudes the same relaxed and fun loving aura, which despite its obvious flaws allows it to provide enough sophomoric fun to muster at least a mild recommendation. Those seeking mature or stimulating filmmaking had best keep their distance, but to those willing to concede intellect in exchange for a few charming laughs, I’d give “A Night at the Roxbury” another chance.

6/10

Daniel Kelly