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A Night at the Roxbury (1998)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/28/2007

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/22/2007

In a recent edition of his article in Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King spoke of our enjoyment of entertainment. His main point was that people should like what they like and not question it. He poo-pooed the notion of "Guilty Pleasures" (something which I've written about in the past) and stated that he enjoys the movies, books, TV shows, and music that he does without wondering why. I agree with King 100%, which is why I have no problem saying that I like A Night at the Roxbury, which has just been re-released on DVD.

A Night at the Roxbury tells the story of Doug (Chris Kattan) and Steve Butabi (Will Ferrell), two dim-witted brothers. Despite the fact that they are in the 20s, they live with their parents, Kamehl (Dan Hedaya) and Barbara (Loni Anderson), and work in their father's silk plant store. But, their real passion is to get dressed up and go to nightclubs. Despite the fact that they can never get in to the more exclusive clubs, and they are always shot down by women, Doug and Steve go out every night. Doug, the slightly smarter one of the two, dreams of opening his own nightclub. One night, they meet Mr. Zadir (Chazz Palminteri), the owner of The Roxbury, one of the most exclusive clubs in town, and chat with him about their club ideas. Zadir loves the ideas and suggests that they work together. But, just when it looks like Doug's dreams are about to come true, things go sour. Steve suddenly finds himself in a relationship with Emily (Molly Shannon), and the bond between the brothers fragments. What can bring these two dancing fools back together?

A Night at the Roxbury is based on a skit from Saturday Night Live and it came along at a time when seemingly every character on that show was getting a feature film. (But I'm still waiting for the Brian Fellow's movie!) But, unlike those other skits, A Night at the Roxbury was based on a series of spots where the characters had no names, no backstories, and never spoke. Thus, SNL veteran writer Steve Koren and Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell had to create an entire story around the premise of two guys who are flashy dressers and like to go clubbing. This blank canvas apparently gave them a great deal of freedom, as they've created a very silly movie.

To say that there's little plot in A Night at the Roxbury would be an understatement, as the story is quite simple. This is a movie where the strange characters and small moments fill in the gaps left by the script. Is it stereotypical that Doug is the small, angry schemer while Steve is the big, dumb tenderhearted one? Sure, but this is also very funny. The scenes in which Chris Kattan loses his temper are classic. (No one can angrily throw silk plants into a van like that man!) And you'll either laugh or vomit at the scene Steve sticks a Twizzler up Doug's nose...and then eats it. This certainly isn't highbrow comedy. No, this is a very, very silly movie which falls somewhere between the more absurd movies which Ferrell would go on to make (Anchorman) and a straight-ahead spoof. The movie also has one foot planted in the real world (of comedy), as we have Richard Grieco playing Richard Grieco.

But, the lack of depth also hurts the film. The fact that every character is a stereotype of some kind may be a commentary on Los Angeles, but it also makes for a thin movie. None of the characters are very fleshed out and many of the situations that Steve and Doug find themselves in are quite predictable. The movie drags in the middle when the brothers find themselves with a pair of gold-diggers.

Then again, A Night at the Roxbury is the kind of movie which really needs a in-depth analysis or criticism. It's a one-note silly, funny movie which makes no apologies for what it is. For some reason, I've found that many people claim to hate this movie, but anyone that I've ever shown it to laughed the whole time. Short (81 minutes) and to the point, A Night at the Roxbury is by no means a classic comedy, but it has some very funny moments, and if nothing else, it's interesting to see Will Ferrell look so young.

A Night at the Roxbury dances onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. This newly released DVD replaces the previous version from April, 1999. One of the main advantages of this new DVD is the presence of an anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1. Despite the fact that this is a new transfer, it still looks a bit dull, as the entire picture doesn't "pop" as one would want a great digital transfer to do. Still, the image is sharp and clear for the most part, showing only a smidge of grain. The colors, especially the nearly constant pastels, look good. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The subwoofer gets a lot of work from this track due to the constant dance music. Surround sound is used to good effect in the club scenes.

This new DVD contains a few extra features, whereas the old release had none. We start with "Score! Reliving A Night at the Roxbury". This 24-minute featurette contains modern interviews with producer (and rumored co-director) Amy Hecklerling, director John Fortenberry and writer Steve Koren. There are archive interviews with Ferrell and Kattan. They all talk about the challenge of making a movie out of a silent skit, the characters, and the sets. Costume designer Mona May is profiled in "Roxbury Rags: Costume and Fashion Guide" (9 minutes). Choreographer Mary Ann Kellogg describes her work on the film in "Do That Dance!" (5 minute). "Making the List" (9 minutes) features comments from club owners, experts, and DJs on the clubbing life.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long