(director/writer: John Hamburg;  cinematographer:Michael Barrett; editor: Suzanne Pillsbury; music: Theodore Shapiro; cast: Sam Rockwell (Sam), Steve Zahn (Eddie), Mark Ruffalo (Frank), Josh Pais (Mitchell), Paul Giamatti (Veal Chop), Christina Kirk (Hannah), Harvey Fierstein (Leo), Michael Lerner (Big Fat Bernie Gayle), Michael Schmidt (Bernie Jr.),  Mr. Blue (M.C. Victor); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrew Hauptman/Ellen Bronfman/effrey Clifford/Jonathan Cohen; Universal Pictures; 1998)

“Only a few of the sight gags pass the giggle test.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time director John Hamburg  (“Along Came Polly”/”Why Him?”) gets a few laughs out of this silly, low-key and low-brow comedy about an inept singing duo mistaken for top safe-crackers and forced to work for a fatherly but threatening Jewish mafia boss. The plot has too many holes, especially the unresolved finale.

Sam (Sam Rockwell) and Eddie (Steve Zahn) are a struggling singing duo lounge act from Providence, Rhode Island who lack talent. After performing in a Polish club and receiving no applause, the boys are disheartened that Sam can’t even remember the lyrics after their five years together. While relaxing at a bar, en-route home, the boys are mistaken by an incompetent flunky, Vea l Chop (Paul Giamatti), for the legendary safe men Frank and Mitchell (Mark Ruffalo and Josh Pais) and forcibly brought to his Jewish mafia boss Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Michael Lerner). He  forces them to rob three safes or he will kill them.

To save their lives, the inept duo go along with the heists. They take credit for them even if done by the real safe-crackers. Meanwhile the chubby fanatic Rangers fan Bernie Jr. (Michael Schmidt) prepares for his lavish bar mitzvah. His doting dad wishes to surprise him with a precious gift and has the safe-crackers heist the stolen 1994 Stanley Cup the NY Rangers won, that is possessed by a fence (Harvey Fierstein). The fence’s daughter Hannah (Christina Kirk), a gourmet chef for dad’s store, was previously romantically involved with the legendary safe-cracker Frank but has since fallen for Eddie.

Only a few of the sight gags pass the giggle test. The slight film garners some laughs because the genial comedy is outlandish and so dumb it’s probably beyond critique. It has potential because of its clever premise, but the film never works as a whole. It is what it is–a direct-to-video film. However, the indie benefits greatly from fine understated droll comic performances by its talented cast.


REVIEWED ON 3/8/2017       GRADE: B-