The first time I saw Screwed (2000), I wasn't very appreciative of the film, but after viewing it for a second time, I think it's growing on me, as I liked it a little better, although I doubt if I were to watch it again, I would like it even more, as it's not really a film that merits viewing more than I already have.... The movie was somewhat funny, but I'd hardly recommend it above other comedies, that is, unless you've seen them all and you're just looking to rent for the sake of renting something. The film, written and directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, better known for their biography pictures (Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon), stars a solid cast in SNL veteran Norm Macdonald (Dirty Work), David Chappelle (Half Baked), prominent stage actress Elaine Stritch (Krippendorf's Tribe), and Danny DeVito (L.A.Confidential).
The film features Norm Macdonald as a hapless manservant named Willard Fillmore, who works for a well-to-do, nasty, miserly, old biddy named Mrs. Crock (Stritch), owner of a popular baked goods company. I use the term `manservant' loosely, as Willard is more of a slave, working for peanuts, forced to endure the abusive antics of his employer, until he finally can stand it anymore, and develops a simple revenge plan with his best friend, Rusty P. Hayes (Chappelle), owner of Rusty's Juicy Chicken Hole, to kidnap Mrs. Crock's beloved Pomeranian Muffin, and hold it for ransom. Well, as we all know, even the simplest of plans often get tripped up with complications, and here is no different. Somehow the authorities presume it was Willard who was kidnapped, as Muffin managed to escape and return home before missed, forcing Willard and Rusty to change their plans to now go along with the idea that Willard really was kidnapped, subsequently asking for more money from Mrs. Crock (who, incidentally, isn't inclined to pay, not for Willard, at least). From here the plans continually get more befuddled, complications get more, well, complicated, as the two kidnappers get deeper and deeper in over their heads, trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities.
The film, meant to be a homage to the screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's (according to the production notes), has its' moments, but lacks the charm of the movies its' trying to emulate. The cast is solid, featuring Macdonald, who I've always though a bit under-rated and suffers from not only having a type of humor with limited appeal (I really liked his previous film Dirty Work, which is much funnier than this, but did very poorly at the box office), but also a lack of suitable roles, often stuck playing secondary characters in Adam Sandler features. I think the same goes for Chappelle, whose show on Comedy Central is extremely funny, but is often relegated to lesser roles in features, unable to really show off his true comedic talents. I think both of these actors did well with what they had, but were perhaps miscast in their roles. Stritch does a fine job, but it was kind of odd seeing her take a role that seemed beneath her, especially given her past theatrical stage experience. I guess one can say she's not one of these haughty actresses who regards this type of work negatively, or else she really needed the money (funny how one's artistic integrity is sometimes inversely proportion to one's economic needs...) Danny DeVito is pretty funny as Grover Cleaver, an odd, simplistic character who works in a morgue and is hired by the boys to provide a corpse (watch the film to find out why). The scene where Grover is discussing various items he's found inside cadavers and his speculations as to their various points of entry, is pretty funny, especially the reaction of Rusty as Grover starts handling a particular musical instrument (you can catch this scene on the trailer). I think the biggest problem with this film is what it was trying to be...as I said before, the production notes present it as a homage to the screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's, but people who enjoy those probably won't enjoy this as it often incorporates the crude humor of an Adam Sandler movie (but not enough to warrant those who enjoy that type of humor to run out and see this film) and people who like Adam Sandler films probably won't appreciate (or understand, or care about) the subtle homage to those films made so long ago. I got the feeling they were trying (and failed to some degree) accommodate a segment of the movie-going public (that large group who made Sandler so rich and famous) with the vulgar material, perhaps compromising their initial artist vision of a truly faithful modernization honoring of those films from the past. There are some very funny moments sprinkled throughout the film's 82-minute run-time (it certainly helped that the movie wasn't dragged out much longer), but not nearly enough to keep many viewers satisfied (Dirty Work differed in this aspect most likely because it was partly written by Macdonald). Ultimately, the film is good for a few laughs, but suffers from, in my opinion, losing focus on the fundamental scope of the project.
The wide screen (1:85:1) picture on this DVD is excellent, as is the audio. Special features include a theatrical trailer for the film along with one for Man on the Moon, production notes, biographies and selected filmographies of the main cast and crew, and a Universal weblink (oh boy). Maybe once the writers/directors Alexander and Karaszewski got this out of their system, they can now go back to doing what they do best, with their popular biopics. There's certainly nothing wrong with trying new things and broadening your horizons, but there's also something to be said for sticking with what you know.