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"CORKY ROMANO"
(2001) (Chris Kattan, Peter Falk) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A good-natured but bumbling veterinarian goes undercover as an FBI agent to steal files indicting his mob father and must then live up to the high expectations created by his forged resume.
PLOT:
Corky Romano (CHRIS KATTAN) is a mild-mannered and good-natured veterinarian who believes that his father, Pops (PETER FALK), is in the landscaping business. Thus, he's shocked when he gets a call to visit him and learns that his father, his right-hand man Leo Corrigan (FRED WARD), and his siblings, Paulie (PETER BERG) - the functionally illiterate brother - and Peter (CHRIS PENN) - the repressed homosexual - are all involved in the organized crime world of racketeering, prostitution and underground casinos.

It seems that Pops, who's now fallen ill, has been indicted by a grand jury that has some sort of incriminating evidence on him. Realizing an informant has stung him, he's decided to put one of his own men undercover into the FBI and steal that evidence. The only problem is that the Feds know and can recognize all of the Romanos, except for Corky who was kicked out of the house long ago.

Accordingly, and despite nearly everyone's reluctance to have him be the mole - Corky agrees to pose as an FBI agent, complete with a forged badge and resume. Unbeknownst to Corky, however, that's made him out to be a super agent, and thus Director Howard Shuster (RICHARD ROUNDTREE) assigns Corky to work with Agent Kate Russo (VINESSA SHAW) in catching the Night Vulture, the biggest heroin supplier on the East Coast.

Under the guise of Agent Pissant, Corky stumbles and bumbles his way through one assignment after another - always coming out looking good and/or highly efficient despite himself. He then sets out to find the evidence against his father, all while working with fellow agents Bob Cox (ROGER FAN) and Terrence Darnell (DAVE SHERIDAN), falling for Russo, and finding himself under the suspicious eye of senior Agent Brick Davis (MATTHEW GLAVE) who knows something's not right with the new agent.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
One of the good things about life is that it's often filled with both surprises and guilty pleasures. Everyone knows what the first are, but there are those who might not recognize the latter, at least by that term. They're the sort of thing that's worthless, useless and/or bad for you that many are ashamed to admit to liking, such as really fattening ice cream, boy band music and really bad movies that nevertheless manage to be entertaining in one fashion or another.

Of course, surprises and guilt can be bad things or have negative connotations as well, and the film "Corky Romano" manages to play both sides of the coin, although it's far more often in negative rather than positive territory. Yet another mob-based comedy, this film is surprising for just had bad and poorly constructed it really is.

After all, it's dumb - nay, idiotic - filled with inane visual gags and humor, and for many viewers will be far more irritating than entertaining. Yet, for some - and that number is both unsure and unproven - the film may be something of a guilty pleasure - although few will admit it - and much, if not all, of that will rest squarely on actor Chris Kattan's diminutive and squiggly shoulders.

Best known for his hyper and exaggerated characters on TV's "Saturday Night Live" and his roles in "A Night at the Roxbury" and "Monkeybone," Kattan is a gifted physical comedian who's essentially armed with just one weapon and that's holding nothing back in using his body and facial contortions in just about any and every way imaginable to elicit laughs.

He's certainly an acquired taste, although some viewers will be hard pressed to expose themselves to him in anything more than short doses. Here, first-time director Rob Pritts (making his feature film debut after helming many TV commercials) and novice screenwriters David Garrett & Jason Ward dump Kattan into various scenes - that are really just loosely associated vignettes - and let him go to work.

Whether it's causing veterinary office chaos, reacting to accidentally ingesting cocaine, or straining to let out a fart to humiliate his mean brothers, Kattan proves he's game - or is it gamy - to try anything for a laugh.

Some of it works and some of it doesn't, and one's reaction to all of it will probably depend on one's tolerance of Kattan's antics and the basic inanity of it all. I'll admit to laughing several times, but trust me, I felt bad about it the following morning.

Even so, I can see why some viewers could find something endearing about him and the way he plays the character - sort of like a rambunctious and out of control puppy making a mess - that would make the overacting, exaggeration and general absurdity somewhat easier to swallow.

One of the film's bigger problems - among many - is that it feels like one of those feature length adaptations of an "SNL" skit that may have worked in 2 or 3 minute form, but is hard pressed to sustain much more than that. Surprisingly, it's an "original" idea, but the standalone bits serving as cohesive scenes and the unrealistic characters and behavior that no one seems to notice certainly make one incorrectly imagine its origins.

Beyond Kattan, the rest of the characters and the resultant performances are of the two-dimensional variety found in most lame, subpar and clearly unsophisticated comedies. Saddled with such constraints, the likes of Peter Falk ("Made," "The Princess Bride"), Fred Ward ("Summer Catch," "Tremors"), Peter Berg ("A Midnight Clear," "Fire in the Sky") and Chris Penn ("Rush Hour," "The Funeral") can't do much with their mob figures, while Vinessa Shaw ("Coyote Summer," "Eyes Wide Shut"), Matthew Glave ("Rock Star," "The Wedding Singer") and Richard Roundtree ("Seven," "Shaft") pretty much end up in the same boat, but on the other side playing the good guys.

Simply put, if you enjoy or at least can tolerate Kattan's high-strung and wild antics for less than 90 minutes, then you may find some of the film to your liking. For everyone else, however, the filmmakers have unfortunately delivered a film that's not smart or imaginative enough to take advantage of the actor's physical abilities. Instead, they've crafted a picture that's too inane for its own good.

Although it contains a smattering of guilty pleasure moments, few are likely to admit that as the film is far guiltier of being bad rather than pleasurable. Consequently, "Corky Romano" rates as just a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed October 3, 2001 / Posted October 12, 2001


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