Now Showing: Corky Romano

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Public interest in the mafia has made it one of America's tried and true cinematic bailiwicks. From The Godfather to The Sopranos, there is a wealth of clever, moving, exciting, and even funny mob films out there that have played a part in molding our society's ideas about such lofty subjects as honor, loyalty, cruelty, and the American dream. And now, coming along to join the family during the twilight of the genre, is Corky Romano. Let's pray he gets whacked before he can do too much damage.

Corky Romano is, perhaps, the biggest waste of time I have spent in years. That this slapped-together, inane, unfunny piece of clap trap even got to the big screen is an insult to all those films languishing in development hell right now. I recently read that the Tom Clancy thriller The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck, may never see daylight because of a terrorist-themed plot. Part of the reason given is that people want safe, friendly entertainment right now, and to a degree I can understand that, but if Corky is what we have to look forward to, then we are in for a long drought at the movies.

Corky, played by SNL's Chris Kattan, is a sunny, overly cheerful veterinarian's assistant who longs to run his own clinic one day. He also happens to be the outcast son of one of the biggest mob bosses in New York. When the FBI starts to get too close, the family decides to infiltrate the FBI with one of their own and destroy all the evidence. Unfortunately, for them and us, Corky is the only member of the family unknown to the Feds, so he gets the job. Wackiness ensues. This film is so full of holes that it's hardly worth mentioning any one in particular, but why in the world wouldn't the FBI know about Corky? It's not like the mob is hiding him. He's right there, prancing around town in his yellow Miata, belting out 80's power ballads to the dismay of all those around him (one of the film's few funny bits, although you can see it all in the preview). And the powerful mafia family the FBI is trying to take down? It seems to consist of a bedridden Peter Falk as Papa Romano, squinting at his two dysfunctional sons from his pillow, and a shadowy Fred Ward, still wearing that awful toupee that he had in Summer Catch. It looks like it's about to crawl forward off of his head. Can't someone in wardrobe help him with that?

Like most Saturday Night Live star vehicles, Corky comes on way strong with the message. For some reason, a show that thrives on biting satire can't stand to deliver it for any longer than sketch length. Here the message is Acceptance, and they hit you with it like a black jack to the back of the head. In the first seconds of the movie you are bombarded with Hollywood psychotherapy: THIS MOBSTER IS GAY. THAT'S WHY HE'S SO MEAN. THIS MOBSTER CAN'T READ. THAT'S WHY HE DOES BAD THINGS. Papa learns to accept and embrace homosexuality, illiteracy, (why are we embracing illiteracy? That's a good message...) and even Corky's dorkiness. The FBI learns not to be so serious all the time, and start calling each other by their first names, instead of "Agent Smith." Apparently they learn to more accepting of criminal activity, because in the end they all get together for a big Mob/FBI wedding. Okaay.

Perhaps the biggest crime perpetrated by this film is that it's not funny. It's not offensive or disturbing or anything, it's just not funny. Ham-handed, poorly written, poorly acted, and sloppily directed, but not funny. It's really a shame, too, because Chris Kattan can be really funny. On SNL he's a scream, and I thought A Night at the Roxbury was pretty clever, but maybe lead roles are not for him right now. He is able to show off his talent in a few isolated spots, such as when his supposed multi-lingual FBI persona is trying to translate between Vietnamese and Thai drug dealers. For the most part, however, he bumbles along just like Corky, trying to appear friendly and harmless and coming off as inane.

Actually, the one good thing about this movie is the premise. When you think about it, it's a pretty cool idea: the mob putting a mole inside the FBI, instead of the other way around. I would love to see someone take a serious shot at that story; I bet you could come out with a thriller on the level of No Way Out or The Eye of the Needle. Unfortunately, Corky Romano makes no such attempts at either clever suspense or clever humor. As a mob movie, Corky is much more Fredo than anything else, and we can only hope Michael will be sending him out on the rowboat as soon as possible. Grade: D

Corky Romano is rated PG-13 for some language and mild sensuality.

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