Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Peter Baldwin
Stars: Rodney Dangerfield, Dina Mazov, Burt Reynolds, David Ogden-Stiers, Lesley-Anne Down
Poor Rodney Dangerfield! The master of the quick one-liner and the biting put down can’t get any respect! And if he keeps making dud movies like this it’s probably no wonder!
In his latest movie the bug-eyed comic plays Wally Sparks, the obnoxious, crass and loud host of a sleazy tabloid tv talk show, a character perfectly suited to the screen persona that Dangerfield has perfected in films such as Caddyshack and Back To School. With a preference for showcasing porn stars and bare breasted women on his show, Sparks seems like a very low brow version of shock rock jock Howard Stern. While the crude antics of his decidedly amateurish looking “tits and ass burlesque show” are a hit with audiences they drive the understandably nervous sponsors away in droves. When the station program manager ( Burt Reynolds, obviously slumming it in yet another come back attempt with this C-grade comedy) threatens to take him off the air, Sparks sets out to salvage the show before it’s too late.
He heads off to Georgia to meet the State’s pompous, blustering, and highly moral Governor Preston (M*A*S*H‘s David Ogden-Stiers, also slumming it and obviously uncomfortable with the low brow material), who detests Sparks and all he stands for. Sparks’ appearance at the Governor’s election ball is a disaster, but somehow the sleazy talk show host manages to save both his reputation and the governor’s when he stumbles across a blackmail scheme aimed at discrediting Preston and forcing him out of the race for a Senate seat.
This all too obvious fish out of water comedy loses focus a little when it attempts to get deep and meaningful by exploring the dysfunctional father-son relationships that exist between Sparks and his rock singer son and Preston and his teenage son, thus making the point that, despite their all too obvious differences, this pair do actually have something in common. Meet Wally Sparks is ultimately a fairly brainless comedy that struggles for laughs, despite Dangerfield’s over the top mugging and his desperate attempts to wring something out of the lame material. However, as if sensing that it’s not working, even his delivery seems uncharacteristically forced and stilted. Any film that has to resort to the old squirrel up the trouser leg routine for laughs is indeed in deep trouble. Peter Baldwin’s direction is laboured, and, as if to compensate, he has crammed the film to overflowing with a wealth of celebrity cameos, and everyone from Tim Allen and Roseanne through to real-life talk show hosts vie for their fifteen seconds of screen time.
Meet Wally Sparks is purely one for fans of Dangerfield’s crass, unsubtle and crudely sexist style of humour.