Screwed

on May 12, 2000 by Mike Kerrigan
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   The writing team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski has penned three of the best movies of the '90s--"Man on the Moon," "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "Ed Wood". Norm Macdonald has a well-defined and popular persona of an amoral and irreverent but likable schemer. So how come they couldn't come up with something better than this road kill of a movie?

   And there's more. How did they manage to involve class acts like Danny DeVito, Elaine Stritch and Daniel Benzali in their folly? Surely there can't be that many incriminating photos out there.

   Macdonald, straying far from his character comfort zone, plays the put-upon butler of a witchy tycoon. The hired hand is treated like a dog, or rather much worse than his mistress' pampered pooch. The Norm we know and love from movies ("Dirty Work") and TV (ABC's "Norm") would have told his employer where to stick her job, but then there would have been no "Screwed"--which would have been best for all concerned. Instead, there's a pathetic plot about kidnapping the dog for ransom, which veers off in convoluted and totally pointless directions. There is one brief promise of salvation with the introduction of Danny DeVito's creepy character--a morgue attendant with an impressive collection of things found inside corpses. Think Louis DePalma meets Frankenstein. But he's not given the opportunity to go anywhere with it.

   The real tragedy is that there are no laughs--nothing remotely amusing. The closest it gets is naming the characters almost after presidents. There's Willard Fillmore, Grover Cleaver and Rusty B. Hayes. And the cop is called--wait for it--Tom Dewey. It might not be exactly side-splitting to suggest that audiences forking over their money expecting to be entertained are getting exactly what the title promises. But it would be funnier than the film.    Starring Norm Macdonald, Dave Chappelle and Danny DeVito. Directed and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. Produced by Robert Simonds. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, nudity, language, some violence and brief drug content. Running time: 81 min.

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