Stella Street

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 01/15/05 13:22:06

"It's like a jerk at a party who just won't quit with the bad jokes."
1 stars (Total Crap)

You know that slow queasy you get when you realize, oh, holy hell, this guy’s about to do a Jack Nicholson impression? Or the sinking sensation you get when you discover that there’s no way of avoiding somebody’s Mick Jagger impersonation, no matter how long they take beating it into the ground? Welcome, boys and girls, to the painful world of “Stella Street.”

The picture thinks it’s endlessly clever, what with three actors appearing as almost every character, most of them caricatures of celebrities. Which would not be so bad, I suppose, had the premise been worth 90 minutes of movie, which it is not; the filmmakers forget that impressions work merely as a novelty, and that novelty wears off rather quickly. And so we get five seconds of “Gee, that guy’s pretty good as Michael Caine,” followed by a long, dying groan of “OK, Michael Caine. Yes. We get it. Cripes!” (Note: the film is adapted from a series of ten-minute sketches that aired on the BBC; I’m both guessing and hoping that the jokes may have worked with such a smaller running time. It’s the only way to explain the series’ cult following. At feature length, though, we’re stuck with something as nauseating as a Rich Little special.)

Worse, many of the impersonations suck. Hard. It’s bad news when someone doing an impression has to begin by announcing who the subject is. But that’s what we get, as in the scene where the first words “Mick Jagger” says is “Hi, I’m Mick Jagger,” lest we have to work it out for ourselves. (The Jagger and Richards impressions we get, by the way, are sub-substandard clichés, with the Mick lips-and-hips and the Keith drunkenness. Yawn.) As for the Nicholson and Al Pacino, both are the same generic versions that have been overplayed by stand-up comic hacks for ages now (“Pacino” even says “hoo-ha”), only with both, the actors’ own British accents show up randomly, because to expect anything better would be to want a different movie. Meanwhile, there’s an impression of Joe Pesci that’s so awful that had the script not revealed him to be Pesci, we would never have been able to guess who this guy was trying to be. And don’t even ask about the guy who turned to be Dustin Hoffman.

So what are all these fake celebs doing in one movie anyway? Well, the joke is that there’s this London suburb where all the Hollywood bigshots go to get away from it all. And then, well... that’s it, really. We’re supposed to think Jagger and Richards running a grocery store is a hoot, which is, at least as seen here, not really. To flesh out some kind of plot, the script (penned by Phil Cornwell, who does the least sucky impressions; John Sessions, who does the suckiest ones; and director Peter Richardson, who lets them both get away with being very, very boring) tries out something about bungling thieves, and when that doesn’t pan out, we move on to a vixen who steals all of the celebs’ money. That one’s less funny than the bungling thieves one, but somebody must have liked it, because they stick with it a bit longer than anything else here.

By the way, in addition to all the impressions, we also get Sessions, Cornwell, and co-star Ronni Acona (who does a mediocre Madonna and a worse Posh Spice) appearing as kooky neighbors, such as the demented arsonist nerd and the old cleaning lady who’s obviously modeled after every single drag character to ever appear in a Monty Python production. (I can hear Sessions in the make-up chair now: “No! No! I need to look more like Eric Idle!!”) While these non-impression characters are less obnoxious than the impression ones, they’re still quite obnoxious in their own right.

All of this is tossed together quite badly, with too-obvious stand-ins serving as cheap body doubles for the tiny cast, and weak editing and shoddy production values failing to make the most of the multiple character angle. This is a bad comedy that’s also badly made, a project that hopes to rank among the best of Alec Guiness or Peter Sellers but in reality ranks with the worst of whoever got rejected from the cast of “MAD TV.” One decent Michael Caine impersonation alone, it turns out, does not qualify you for a major motion picture.

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