I am asked from time to time why I despise big-budget Hollywood with such passion. I don't hate every big-budget film, of course, but I do loathe the process that brings them to the screen. The process has nothing to do with art and everything to do with business, and I think that sort of environment ensures that things like A Night at the Roxbury comes to existence.
That "film" exemplifies most of what I hate about Hollywood. It is a film so bad, not even basic cable shows it, yet it got made and almost anyone with half a brain could've seen it would've been horrible. In fact, I bet most Hollywood executives thought it would be bad, but trudged on with the greenlighting simply because they saw money to be made. (It almost grossed twice what it cost to produce it, so the execs weren't far off. Never underestimate the stupidity of cattle.)
The idea for the film probably came about by men who suits thinking that since the Saturday Night Live skit was enjoyed by people, these people would love seeing skit drawn out on the big screen. There is some logic in this. SNL, at the time, was not exactly known for being on the cutting-edge of comedy. (It still isn't, as far as I'm concerned. And for those who think it is cutting-edge, understand that the show routinely engages in censorship of ideas, not just profanity, so it is far from anything goes when it comes to comedy.) Surmising that the SNL crowd would not have enough common sense to stay away from the film, the idea was given the go-ahead, and the execs were sort of proven right. Critics hated it, but people saw it and helped it gross a little over $30 million when it cost a mind-staggering $17 million to make. Not bad for something I'm convinced everyone knew was doomed to fail.
Predictable audiences enable Hollywood to make predictable movies. It's not the only thing that does that, but it helps dramatically. I would have little problem with this except for the fact that I believe it funnels money away from original films (of any ilk) getting made. Why take a chance on a fresh, never-been-heard-of comedy when you can make some green off a TV show skit? Business-wise it makes total sense. As for artistic and entertainment values, though, it leaves little to be desired. What makes the A Night at the Roxbury situation even stranger is that Hollywood knows that SNL movies are routinely panned (there are exceptions), but that original comedies often get not only box office dough but good reviews. Hollywood executives who greenlight this crap would rather go after the all mighty dollar than keep their reputation untarnished. Lorne Michaels and Amy Heckerling produced it. John Fortenberry directed it. (In case you don't recognize his name, perhaps it is because you never saw his other work, including Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful and Underfunded. Someone, probably many someones, gave them the okay to do the film, however, and those names are harder to find. They are responsible for that disaster of film just as much as the names we know (and if we have any sense, no longer trust).
That film, more than any other, is the perfect, shining example of why I despise and distrust Hollywood. Got a better one? I'd love to hear it.
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I was not given a copy of the film in question to review. Thank God! If you click on any of my links, I may make a small commission because they are affiliates. This post is also being optioned for a movie starring none other than Tim Meadows! (Lorne Michaels is producing it.)
-Doug Brunell (America's Favorite Son)