Sketchy cinema Aside from the boffo 'Blues Brothers' and DTC 'Wayne's World,' the 'SNL' big-screen record is laughable. But the Not Ready for Prime Time Players keep trying.

October 05, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Saturday Night Live" has a sketchy film legacy.

The Coneheads, Pat and Stuart Smalley may have first appeared "live from New York," but they died at the box office. Only "The Blues Brothers" and "Wayne's World" made successful leaps from sketch to screen.

Sustaining a one-note joke for two minutes is tough enough.

But sustaining the same one-note joke for two hours is nearly impossible.

That didn't stop the powers that be at the aged late-night institution from trying to score with "A Night at the Roxbury" on Friday.

The movie is the big-screen treatment of the recurring "Roxbury Guys" gag, in which current "SNL" cast members Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell play delusional poseurs Steve and Doug Butabi.

In the Roxbury sketches, the brothers try to make the L.A. club scene by spasmodically bobbing their heads, awkwardly attempting to pick up A-list babes and dressing like they think clubsters should. But despite all their efforts, they may as well be invisible in the scene they ache to make.

"Roxbury" opened to lukewarm reviews. If it follows the lead of most of its predecessors, it will be dumped in the pop culture landfill faster than you can say "Schwing!"

There are two more "SNL" projects in the pipeline as well. "Superstar" will spotlight Molly Shannon's creepy Catholic schoolgirl, Mary Katherine Gallagher. And Mike Myers' angsty German talk show host, Dieter, gets his big break in "Sprockets."

To refresh your "SNL" screen spinoff memory, and possibly uncover a few repressed ones, here's a chronological cheat sheet. Mind you, we're not including flops simply featuring "SNL" alums such as Chevy Chase. That would be more like a thesis.

"The Blues Brothers" (1980)

Stars: John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd

Sketch premiere: 1975

On "a mission from God," white-boy blues freaks and chronic law breakers Jake and Elwood Blues tear Chicago apart as they strive to rebuild their band. This extremely successful first stab at adapting a skit to the big screen was criticized for its car-chase and disaster-scene excess. But the gloriously deadpan, sunglass-wearing anti-heroes transcend the weak points. Aykroyd does a dead-on Chicago accent. Belushi does back flips in a black church and slings lines like "I hate Illinois Nazis." Plus, game cameos by such music legends as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin more than save the film's anti-establishment soul.

"Wayne's World" (1992)

Stars: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe and Tia Carrere

Sketch premiere: 1989

Even the notorious Mr. Lowe turns in an excellent performance in this sweet, hilarious and smart big-screen tale of Wayne and Garth, the metalhead Illinois suburbanites with their own subversively shoddy cable access show and a flair for inventing phrases such as "Sphincter Boy." Mike Myers' amiable interpretation of Wayne is the glue that holds this unlikely, yet winning, mix of satire, self-consciousness and utter randomness together. A psychotic doughnut-shop worker and a subtitled Cantonese conversation about Nietszche and Dick Van Patten are further delights in the film that forever changed the way the youth of America hears Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

"Wayne's World 2" (1993)

Stars: Myers, Carvey, Christopher Walken and Carrere

This less-excellent and less-successful sequel is disjointed and flat despite heavy borrowing from the original charmer. But the inferior material isn't enough to suppress the spirit of Carvey and Myers. So still count on some memorable moments as they struggle to put on "Waynestock," with the help of the ghost of Jim Morrison and a half-naked Indian. Garth gets deflowered by Kim Basinger. Wayne does a little dubbed kung-fu fighting with his Chinese sexpot girlfriend's overprotective dad. And though a fabulous scene near the end parodies "The Graduate," on the whole, the film is definitely not worthy.

"Coneheads" (1993)

Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Chris Farley

Sketch premiere: 1977

In the original Conehead sketches, Prymaat and Beldar Cone-head were verbose aliens with phalluses for heads. They were stranded on Earth and claimed to be from France. Though they inspired some initial curiosity, no one ever questioned them, and the Coneheads became productive members of society, an All-American nuclear family that just happened to eat cigarettes. And though this forgotten yet disturbingly appealing hallucination of a film was made almost 20 years after their SNL debut, the Coneheads are still pretty much the same, even if Curtin's mechanical accent needs a little tuning. They do face new challenges, however, as they deal with their daughter Connie's cone-ing of age.

"It's Pat" (1994)

Stars: Julia Sweeney, Charles Rocket, Kathy Griffin and Dave Foley

Sketch premiere: 1990

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