Meet Wally Sparks

on January 31, 1997 by Susan Lambert
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   This film is so raunchy.... (All together now:) How raunchy is it? It is so raunchy that a five-minute scene is built around one extended (ahem) penis joke. "Meet Wally Sparks" also gives new meaning to the word "cheap" when there are no less than three scenes where the comedic climax is that someone is fallen on by a fat person. And contrived? Don't get me started....
   The old court jester of comedy himself, Rodney Dangerfield, does his usual brand of schtick as shock-talk show host Wally Sparks, who is in danger of losing his meal ticket because his outrageous behavior upsets advertisers. Sparks has to clean up his act, so he crashes a grand party at the Georgia governor's mansion in an effort to get an exclusive interview with the stuck-up but politically correct Governor Floyd Preston ("Mighty Aphrodite's" David Ogden Stiers). After a freak accident that involves a drunk horse, Sparks ends up staying at the mansion. And well then, of course, chaos ensues.
   Stiers adds a touch of class to an eclectic band of players that includes the talented Debi Mazur ("Trees Lounge"), an over-the-top-but-not-quite-up-to-his-brilliant-performance-in-"Striptease" Burt Reynolds and a wayward squirrel. The script is such a mixed bag of cheap shots, sincerely funny bits and elaborate set-ups for ludicrous payoffs that the film never manages to maintain any forward momentum. Director Peter Baldwin, when he's not at a loss as to how to wrangle this mess into a cohesive film, keeps trying to have it both ways--e.g., he wants to make fun of Michael Bolton and have him sing a song for the soundtrack. The amazing thing here is that Dangerfield, at almost 75, is more than occasionally funny. His song may be an old and familiar one, but he sings it well and with dogged determination. Unfortunately, the jokes that hit are punctuated by ones so awkward and awful as to be the ultimate undoing of the entire film. As Dangerfield himself says near the end, "It's lonely at the top, when there's no one on the bottom." Indeed. Starring Rodney Dangerfield, Burt Reynolds and David Ogden Stiers. Directed by Peter Baldwin. Written by Rodney Dangerfield and Harry Basil. Produced by Leslie Greif. A Trimark release. Rated R for continuous crude sexual humor and some nudity. Running time: 107 min.
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