Who is Corky Romano?
The tag line for Rob Pritts’ debut film hints that there is some mystery to the title character. Is he a hilariously clumsy con man? A mysterious secret agent a la Austin Powers? As it turns out, Corky Romano (Chris Kattan) is neither of these things. In fact, you’re better off never knowing exactly who he is.
Try as he might, Kattan can’t make Corky — who turns out to be the reject son of a mob family — a likeable character, much less a humorous one. The film’s sad at jokes fall flat despite grasping attempts at every juvenile humor tactic within Hollywood comedy norms. “Corky Romano” strives for mediocrity and still fails.
When the don of the Romano family is arrested for gambling and money laundering, his three sons get desperate for a way to vindicate “Pops.” So desperate that they decide to call estranged brother Corky. Corky is a sunny assistant veterinarian at “Poodles and Pussies” who drives a banana yellow Miata and sings along to “Take On Me” in an unbearable falsetto.
Corky has never been part of the family business, we assume because of his incapability to function like a normal human being (think Adam Sandler playing Michael Corleone). But he’s the one chosen to go undercover as an FBI agent to recover evidence against Pops, and in the process get caught up in the hunt for Night Vulture, a heroin dealer. Luckily Corky has some help from his brothers, two mobsters who act more like Abbot and Costello with fancy cars and baseball bats.
Alas, hilarity does not ensue. Corky fumbles so badly every time (until of course he magically learns how to subdue his annoying happiness, “get serious”, and save the day) that it just isn’t funny. Pritts thinks he’s bringing in the big comedy guns — flying animals, flatulence, a chest-pounding midget and some really ugly ties — but there’s no bullet, not even a “Bang!” sign.
The ugly ties are probably the funniest thing about the film. You’d think Corky’s Georgia O’Keefe-rip-offs-turned-ties would be a dead giveaway for an undercover FBI agent, but instead they become the rage with the agents. One might also glean a few laughs when Corky dons a girl scout uniform and knee socks, or a Britney Spears muscle tank complemented by a swastika-adorned fanny pack. Wait, that’s not funny, it’s just scary.
But the most pathetic comic attempts come when Pritts attempts originality, thinking what no director has thought before: forensic medicine can be funny! At a crime scene, huge black flies cover the camera, and the buzzing nearly drowns out the dialogue (not that this would be much of a tragedy). In case this isn’t enough, Corky saves the day by stepping on the murdered man’s amputated penis, making a foul, sloshing sound.
Why Kattan, a respectable “Saturday Night Live” cast member, chose to make this movie is a much bigger mystery than the amputated penis, or even the case against Pops. Perhaps it’s the small-screen-to-silver-screen curse — remember Matt LeBlanc in “Ed” or Molly Shannon in “Superstar”? Better just to forget them, along with “Corky Romano.” As it turns out, the film doesn’t even have enough humor to fill up half a Mango sketch.
The supporting characters are no help. Peter Falk, of “Columbo” fame, plays Pops Romano like Donald Duck doing his best Marlon Brando. Watching him wheezing makes us wish he’d just die — then at least he could save face and get the hell out of this film. But, much like the film itself, he lingers on.
Corky’s brothers are mobsters with their own troubles — one is illiterate while the other is a closeted homosexual. Instead of going the funnier way of Paul Vitti in “Analyze This,” the brothers whine and whip out beating sticks to vent their anger. These particular annoying tough guys with soft sides add nothing to the long line of similar portrayals that have come in the past.
“Corky Romano” tries to join the ranks of funny crime movies like the “Naked Gun” series by focusing a flimsy film around an out-of-place central character. But Corky isn’t so out of place — his mob family and his fellow FBI agents seem just as incompetent and idiotic as he is. Pops may complain about him all the time, but he did name him Corky instead of Tony or Sonny. How did Pops expect a kid named Corky would turn out?
The best films of this genre — comedy about things that aren’t supposed to be funny — have a good sense of contrast, of what makes their characters or events so out of place. There is no real mafia in “Corky Romano,” no contrast, and so all we’re left with is Corky. And like I said, you don’t want to know Corky.