Monday February 3, 1997
Roseanne. Geraldo. Rolanda. Sally Jessy.
Bob Saget. Jerry Springer. Richard Bey. Tony Danza.
Burt Reynolds. Stuttering John. Morton Downey Jr.
Donner. Cupid. Michael Bolton.
But ya know . . . Rodney Dangerfield never gets any respect. And considering the people he's hanging out with in this movie, it's no surprise.
But then again, there may be a method to his madness. If you're going to star in a movie as bad as "Meet Wally Sparks"--the most inept collection of hoary gags, stale slapstick routines and baggy-pants comedy since the last "Police Academy" debacle--then why not drag every other tasteless hack on stage and screen down with you?
Dangerfield, goggle-eyed and ready to tip over, is Wally Sparks, prototypal trash-talk TV star and stunted adolescent. He incurs the wrath of advertisers (which seems unlikely) for hosting programs about lesbian alien Elvis impersonators and "Sex After 10 Years of Marriage--Should the Wife Know About It?" He also becomes the target of a Southern governor (David Ogden Stiers), whose reelection bid becomes tied to Sparks and his show. The fate of a nation lies in the balance.
What ensues, of course, is a creaky plot about cross-cultural collision and the eventual armistice between fundamentalist rigidity and media licentiousness. Also, one long Dangerfield stand-up routine virtually unencumbered by narrative.
Make no mistake: Like Wally Sparks himself, there is no redeeming social value inherent in this debut feature by Peter Baldwin, who is apparently--and successfully--shedding whatever wholesomeness has attached itself to him by virtue of his work on "The Wonder Years," "Newhart" and "Family Ties." What we get here is comedy of the frenetic phallic or flatulent variety.
Dangerfield is Dangerfield, an acquired taste; "Wally Sparks" is nowhere near his career-defining work in, let's say, "Caddyshack," but he's a known commodity. What's surprising is how many others should be caught up and demolished by this sweeping wave of excremental nonsense. Stiers, Cindy Williams, Debi Mazar, Lesley Anne Down, all supporting actors of some note. But then, so is Dangerfield. What "Wally Sparks" really needed was a star. And while I never thought I'd ever say this, what Wally really could have used was a Chevy Chase.
Meet Wally Sparks, 1997. R, (vulgarity, sexual innuendo). A Trimark Pictures production. Director Peter Baldwin. Producers Harry Basil, Elliot Rosenblatt. Associate producer Kenny Golde. Written by Rodney Dangerfield and Harry Basil. Costumes Alexandra Welker. Photography Richard H. Kline. Production design Bryan Jones. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. Rodney Dangerfield as Wally Sparks. David Ogden Stiers as Floyd Preston. Cindy Williams as Emily Preston. Burt Reynolds as Spencer. Alan Rachins as Judge Williams. Debi Mazar as Sandy.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun