Monday March 16, 1998
Carrot Top, whose frazzled, fright-wiggy red locks remain his most finely developed gag, inspires marvel among many in the comedy world, mainly because he still manages to find work despite an almost utter lack of talent. The payoff of one episode of "The Larry Sanders Show," in fact, hinged on the fact that he's such an execrable comedian--why the guy agreed to be on a show in which his own ineptitude was a punch line is bewildering. Maybe he hoped he'd seem hip being such a good sport, or perhaps he just doesn't get sophisticated humor.
Carrot Top, who makes his film debut with "Chairman of the Board," is a manic prop comic whose objects tend to focus on mammillae and the scatological, making Gallagher look like a model of restraint. On the other hand, Carrot Top is reticent to bring the sheer level of crazed commitment to his persona that Paul Reubens did with Pee-wee Herman, so basically he's an irritant who can't stay in character and can only barely deliver his lines. (Fans must love him, though--I was the only person in the theater at one screening during the weekend.)
"Chairman of the Board" presents a standard-issue rags-to-riches plot, enlivened by only by a tchotchke-heavy production design that might engage those entranced by bright, shiny objects. Alas, the filmmakers can't hold back the urge for smutty or potty gags, so the thing's not even appropriate for the few kids who might find Carrot Top palatable (think of "Good Burger," another movie with kid-pleasingly idiotic protagonists, only with French tickler jokes).
Mr. Top portrays Edison, a wacky layabout who'd like to be an inventor if only it would fit into his surfing-and-loafing regimen. Edison meets an elderly eccentric and inherits the old coot's business when the guy croaks soon thereafter. To the dismay of apoplectic conniver Bradford (Larry Miller, a funny comic who turns up in too many movies like this), who wants the company for himself, Edison's unorthodox behavior makes the corporation wildly successful. Mayhem doesn't really ensue, but you can piece it together from there.
Two questions are posed: Does it never occur to anyone at this abject level of filmmaking to at least try to sell their stupid premise to audiences? And are finances so tight and meaty roles so few that respected character actors like M. Emmet Walsh, Estelle Harris and Jack Warden and beloved bombshells like Raquel Welch and Courtney Thorne-Smith must accept assignments in junk like this?
Technically, the thing is a shambles. Director Alex Zamm can't set up a gag to save his life, routinely putting the camera in the exact wrong place for a joke to work, and editing is so clunky it takes several beats for characters to react to incidents. In one scene, Carrot Top refers to Thorne-Smith's character, Natalie, as "Courtney," a mistake no one apparently cared about enough to correct. For what it's worth, the film gives Thorne-Smith a centerpiece scene in which she belches loud enough to be measured on the Richter scale. And the explosive finale turns on a shirt that makes flatulent sounds.
If Carrot Top is indeed destined for celluloid stardom, look for a lot of film critics' and movie projectionists' jobs to open up in the coming years.
Chairman of the Board, 1998. PG-13, for crude and sex-related humor and language. Trimark Pictures presents a 101st Street Films/Trimark Pictures production. Director Alex Zamm. Producers Peter M. Lenkov, Rupert Harvey. Screenplay Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Alex Zamm. Cinematography David Lewis. Editor Jim Hill. Production design Aaron Osborne. Music Chris Hajian. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Carrot Top as Edison. Courtney Thorne-Smith as Natalie. Larry Miller as Bradford.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun