Stella Street

on October 22, 2004 by L. J. Strom
If you've ever wondered how celebrities like Jack Nicholson handle domestic life, "Stella Street" provides an answer--sort of. "Stella Street" is the film version of the television program of the same name, a British cult comedy based around the celebrity impressions of John Sessions and Phil Cornwell. Although not household names in America, Sessions flexed his comedy muscles in the imported British edition of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," and Cornwell appeared in the topical satire series "Dead Ringers" on BBCAmerica.

The film's central conceit is that showbiz heavyweights like Al Pacino, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards move into the middle-class suburban London cul-de-sac of Stella Street once Nicholson buys a house there at the suggestion of Michael Caine. The glitterati find themselves dealing with domestic issues and the local English eccentrics until a shady broker defrauds them of their fortunes. Ruined, they're forced to prostitute their careers until they end up destitute.

Stella Street Part mockumentary, part sketch humor, "Stella Street" achieves only sporadic success as a movie. Transferring a program of 10-minute spots into a feature format required a longer story, and though the stars-made-homeless arc is amusing, the plot feels like a rush job, grafted onto sketch material with less cohesive clarity than Monty Python managed with their celebrated "Life of Brian." "Stella Street's" mockumentary format does begin promisingly enough, with Cornwell's delightfully note-perfect Michael Caine as our "host," but while the handheld style remains consistent, the Caine moments and the "interview" segments become erratic and few, and that fly-on-the-wall feeling of eavesdropping--a sensation the best mockumentaries like "This Is Spinal Tap" and "The Office" conjure with apparent ease--is often MIA. Which is a shame, because the performers inspire genuine laughs when they're not overdoing it; the humor is affectionate; the logistical challenges of actors playing different characters in the same scene are neatly met; and the premise itself is so rich. With more polish and steadier pacing, "Stella Street" might have better illustrated what was so ingenious about its nifty central conceit. Starring Phil Cornwell, John Sessions and Ronni Ancona. Directed by Peter Richardson. Written by Phil Cornwell, Peter Richardson & John Sessions. Produced by Ben Swaffer. A Destination release. Comedy. Rated R for language and some drug material. Running time: 82 min

Tags: Starring Phil Cornwell, John Sessions, Ronni Ancona, Directed by Peter Richardson. Written by Phil Cornwell, Peter Richardson, Produced by Ben Swaffer, Destination, Comedy

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