[Screen It]

(2000) (Craig Ferguson, Frances Fisher) (R)

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Comedy: Having traveled to Los Angles for a prestigious haircutting contest only to find that he's not a contestant, a Scottish hairdresser races against time to prove his worth and qualify so that he can enter the competition.
Crawford Mackenzie (CRAIG FERGUSON) is Scotland's best hairstylist, so he's not that surprised when he receives an invitation for the World Hairdressing Federation's "Platinum Scissors" competition to be held in Los Angeles. Accompanied by BBC documentarian, Martin Samuels (CHRIS LANGHAM), and receiving the well wishes of his friends and family, Crawford heads off for the city of angels.

Driven to a swanky hotel by Eamonn (DONAL LOGUE), Crawford is soon shocked to discover that the contest isn't paying for his bill. Thus, he heads off to see the competition's coordinator, Monique (MARY McCORMACK), who informs him that he was invited not as a contestant, but as an audience member.

Informed that he needs a union card to even attempt to enter the competition, Crawford pays a visit to Stig Ludwigssen (DAVID RASCHE), the arrogant reigning Platinum Scissors champ. When the Norse hairstylist won't give him a temporary job, Crawford heads off to visit Candy Harper (FRANCES FISHER), a high-powered publicist who represents, among others, fellow Scott Sean Connery, whom Crawford claims to know.

Although she's initially reluctant to help the wayward stylist, Candy is swayed by his charm and agrees to, especially after he gives her a stylish new hairdo. As Candy works to get Crawford a paying job and/or celebrity endorsement, the hairstylist must face long odds, as well as a meeting with the competition's steely chairman, Senator Warren Crockett (CHARLES NAPIER), while trying to gain entry into the contest.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Just as clothing fashions, car designs and the appearance of homes always change from one year or generation to the next, hairstyles have continuously evolved throughout time for both men and women. One only has to mention descriptive styles such as Pompadour, Crew cut, Pageboy or even Mohawk and everyone can immediately picture the look.

Of course, much like the fashion industry, hairstyling for the rich and famous has become a big deal, although many of their more contemporary styles - much like the attire seen paraded down runways - wouldn't exactly mesh with the average Jane and Joe. And just like those who design the clothes, those behind the haircuts and styling are now celebrities in their own right, having come a long way from the corner barber and beauty shops.

That's part of the fun premise of Kevin Allen's amusing, but rarely outrageously funny comedy, "The Big Tease." Featuring an inspired and mostly fun performance by Scottish comedian and performer Craig Ferguson - best known as Mr. Wick on TV's "The Drew Carey Show" - the film is intermittently entertaining, but seemingly comes off far better and more enjoyable in concept than realized execution.

Something of a combination of a fish out of water adventure, one of those "Saturday Night Live" skits (which are usually better in short, rather than full-length form) and a faked comedic documentary (better known as mockumentaries along the lines of "This Is Spinal Tap" and 1999's "Drop Dead Gorgeous"), the film is engaging and decent enough to hold one's interest throughout. Yet, it never manages to be funny or scathing enough in regards to the industry it portrays to make it remotely more memorable than a mediocre hair cut.

As such, there are only a few moments that might elicit a chuckle and maybe even a laugh or two - such as a hotel receptionist stupidly stating that she loves the Beatles upon hearing that the protagonist is from Glasgow - that accompany the standard use of cameos and minor rolls filled by celebrities playing themselves - including Drew Carey, David Hasselhoff and model Veronica Webb. Otherwise, the film is generally rather flat, although one can easily spot the attempts at humor and/or places where more or better material should have been included.

Although the fish out of water plot - where a person is thrown into an environment mostly or completely foreign to them (think of "Back to the Future" or "Crocodile Dundee") - may be a tired convention by now, the film probably would have benefited a bit (or a lot) by the inclusion of greater amounts of such material. After all, one presumes that it's not often that a gay Scottish hairdresser descends upon L.A. (although for some reason that doesn't seem too odd) and taking the path of clashing cultures may have added a few more laughs.

What doesn't add many laughs is the film's mockumentary style. That technique, where the film feigns the elements and appearance of a real documentary, never really amounts to much. Since it's no longer a particularly novel approach and only offers a few sporadic bits of humor (plus a "clever" excuse for allowing the film to purposefully look sloppy and contain rough editing), that entire element could have been jettisoned with few, if any, ill effects.

To top off its several, but certainly not fatal flaws, director Kevin Allen ("Twin Town") and co-screenwriters Ferguson and newcomer Sacha Gervasi stay in line with the film's title by teasing the audience with hopes of a particular star appearing sometime in the proceedings. However, and despite his name being bantered about and a few imitations of him being done, Sean Connery never makes an appearance. While that really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone if they really think about the odds of him appearing in a film like this, the fact that he's a no show after so much is made about him becomes a bit of a disappointment and letdown (although to be fair that's somewhat what teasing is all about).

The one strong thing the film does have going for it is Ferguson, and by giving it is all, his performance makes the film much more palatable than it may have been with another performer. Playing the flamboyant hairstylist to full extreme, Ferguson gets around a less than satisfactorily developed character through sheer charm and flair.

Unfortunately, the rest of the characters don't possess as much, or in some cases, any of that charm, and thus partially come off as flotsam. While Frances Fisher ("True Crime," "Titanic") is somewhat enjoyable as Crawford's determined accomplice, Mary McCormack ("Mystery, Alaska," "Private Parts") and Chris Langham (the BBC series "Kiss Me Kate"), who play the uncompromising coordinator and documentary filmmaker respectively, are rather flat in their sketchily drawn characters. Faring even worse is David Rasche (the old TV series, "Sledge Hammer") as the arrogant champion who's far too one-dimensional a villain to make him noteworthy, let alone much of a match for our "hero."

While the film has a few decent moments and Ferguson clearly carries much of its weight on his shoulders, it's clearly not as funny as many viewers will probably imagine it could have been. Generally amusing, but not terribly funny or particularly barbed in its view of the professional hairstyling world, the film may find a small niche audience, but will probably end up on video about as fast as a cut hair finds its way to the floor. We give the appropriately titled "The Big Tease" a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed January 20, 2000 / Posted February 11, 2000

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