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October 11, 2001

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'Romano' cheese

Chris Kattan brings his hyperactive TV presence to the comedy 'Corky Romano'

By Loey Lockerby

mag@ljworld.com

Chris Kattan is one of those actors who is very funny in moderate doses. When he's doing a "Saturday Night Live" sketch or taking on a small film role, his hyperactive schtick can be just what's needed to perk things up a bit. As his starring role in "Corky Romano" proves, however, watching more than 10 minutes of this guy is like being pummeled by a teddy bear. It's painless and won't do any harm, but you still want it to stop.

Corky is a kind-hearted veterinary assistant who has long been estranged from his mob-boss father (Peter Falk) and violently stupid brothers (Peter Berg and Chris Penn). When Pops learns that the FBI has some serious evidence against him, he reluctantly asks Corky to go undercover as a fed and steal the information before it can be used. The family

gives him a fake identity, Agent Pissant (it's French), and ridiculously beefed-up credentials, which nobody thinks to question.

Of course, Corky is terrible at his new "job," but his superiors are even more clueless than he is, and his bumbling is misconstrued as maverick brilliance. Before long, he's a hero to both the Bureau and his family, and even wins the affections of a tough female agent (Vinessa Shaw). It all comes together in a final showdown that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, not that anyone will be paying attention by this point.

sticker that reads "Free Hugs: One Size Fits All." Instead, they and director Rob Pritts go for a low-rent "Naked Gun" rip-off, with Corky coming off as a cross between Frank Drebin and Roger Rabbit. This leads to a few laughs, especially when Corky crosses paths with a jealous, by-the-book rival (Matthew Glave), but it's still not nearly as amusing as it sounds.

The supporting cast (which includes Fred Ward and Richard Roundtree) is adequate, although it's a sad commentary when even Falk can't muster more than a few decent line readings. Everyone seems bored and a little embarrassed, as if they only recently realized the script wasn't any good but couldn't get out of their contracts. Kattan zips around merrily while the other actors (barely) react -- maybe they didn't think they could compete, but it's too bad they can't even be bothered to try.

There is nothing particularly notable about "Corky Romano," besides the gratuitous use of cheesy pop songs (although you have to respect any man who can hit that high note in a-ha's "Take on Me"). The jokes are predictable, the slapstick is outrageous and the characters are barely sentient, let alone interesting. Corky isn't even that obnoxious, really -- just mildly, vaguely irritating. In fact, in their own way, Kattan and his colleagues have accomplished something truly remarkable: They've created a film so completely devoid of content, it's actually possible to forget you've seen it. Under the circumstances, that's probably a blessing.

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