“Corky Romano” comes from the long tradition of Saturday Night Live breakouts and “flypaper comedies”. These lightweight films are typically identified by its attempt to throw every potential joke on the screen with the hope that some of them will stick. The SNL films and their latter-day successors, starring the likes of Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider, usually apply that approach and have found themselves mostly successful, at least at the box office. Now comes exiled SNL-vet Chris Kattan, getting his first non-SNL inspired starring role in a film that somehow misplaced the flypaper and tried to use looseleaf.The character of Corky Romano is sort of the illegitimate unwanted cousin of Ace Ventura. He’s a gifted veterinarian who can identify any animal’s malady like Sherlock Holmes in a dog park, but doesn’t have the stomach to put any of them out of that misery. That’s a family trait Corky never developed as he’s the prodigal son of the Romano crime family, who are the target of a federal investigation thanks to an inside informant. So the Corkster is called back to take one for the home team by impersonating an FBI agent to steal the incriminating evidence.
High concept perhaps and the name of the game is non-stop silliness, but one of the film’s many problems is that the silliness stops so frequently. As if we really care about the clothesline plot enough to have virtually every single relationship in the movie given closure. Just live up to the “wackiness ensues” mantra. Other than his penchant for 80s pop tunes, Corky isn’t much of a comic character. Sometimes he’s childlike, other times he knows just what to say, making the childish tendencies just annoying.
Chris Kattan is a gifted physical comedian and could easily go one-on-one with Jim Carrey in a twitch contest, but this film never lets him loose. In last February’s box office and critical disaster, “Monkeybone”, Kattan kicked it into overdrive in the final 20 minutes with his hysterically manic portrayal of a deceased Olympic gymnast with a broken neck possessed by the spirit of a dead cartoonist. That one sentence has more comic ideas than anything Kattan is allowed to let loose with in Corky. His cocaine-induced frenzy in front of a group of school children is the only character moment that produces sustained laughter.
Even the supporting cast falls victim to the stilted direction by first-time helmer Rob Pritts. Peter Berg and Chris Penn get a few chuckles as Corky’s bullying brothers, one an illiterate; the other a repressed homosexual. Neither of them gets the chance to take their politically incorrect traits to the humor level which would have demanded another shakedown from GLAD (see: Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back). Matthew Glave (Drew Barrymore’s fiance in The Wedding Singer) makes the most of Corky’s FBI nemesis, notably in his striving for attention as the bureau’s baa baa black sheep. The presence of Peter Falk is also worthy of a smile and Vincent Pastore has a very funny one-scene cameo as Corky’s vet replacement. Vinessa Shaw may have staked her territory as the next hot cutie, but she’s given absolutely zero to do other than to look serious, look happy and look hot.Comedy is such a subjective concept that its hard to tell anybody what’s funny and what’s not. We can certainly try, after all one’s Monty Python is another’s Pauly Shore. That’s why flypaper comedies are released so often. The Farrelly Bros. raised the idea to an art form by combining the non-stop laughs with a finely tuned knack for storytelling. There’s nothing wrong with having just the non-stop laughs that Corky Romano shoots for, but they are playing with a limited number of darts. Many of the comic set pieces (or pieces of set pieces), fall dead flat ranking this effort somewhere above “The Ladies Man” but below “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”.