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By Doug Brunell | August 2, 2000

In basketball, Cody Mackenzie (Brazil J. Grisaffi) would be one of those guys who just keeps firing 3’s, just waiting to get on a hot streak. Instead, in lieu of a streaky jump shot, Cody’s schtick is being a wiseass. Invited with his pretty, long-suffering wife Judy (Anne Quackenbush) to an engagement party in honor of their best friends, Cody spends the bulk of Grisaffi’s oddly jumbled movie indulging in a virtually non-stop patter of wisecracks, asides and off-color comments. While he aims some of these remarks at the collection of socially dinged party-goers in attendance, most center on their attractive hostess Elizabeth Sheridan (Therese Kotava), for whom Cody lusts after shamelessly, even in his wife’s presence. When his uber-blonde dream woman takes him on a tour of the house which ultimately leads to her bedroom, Cody struggles to get a handle on his desires before they ruin his marriage to possibly the only woman who can put up with his embarrassing nonsense.Come to think of it, “embarrassing nonsense” is a fairly apt description of most of this film.
Adapted from George Douglas Lee’s play, Lee being a co-screenwriter along with Grisaffi, “Laughing Boy” is an extremely hit and miss affair, with emphasis on the “miss.” Most of Cody’s wisecracks just aren’t funny and the rest are obnoxious. Either way, the endless stream of schtick is eventually exhausting. Grisaffi, who looks like a young cross between Dennis Quaid on a bad hair day and Norm Macdonald, tries desperately to pump up this lifeless script with the ba-da-bing! patter of a Borscht Belt comedian, but it just doesn’t happen. Whether this is due more to the film’s sluggish editing, uneven writing, and bland cinematography and locations, or its tendency to interrupt the comic flow with moments of sincere, if seriously overwrought pathos, doesn’t change this underlying fact.
Without a real plot to speak of, a film like “Laughing Boy” flies or fails on its cast and writing. Most of the folks here seem to be decent enough actors, when given something interesting to do or say, and even Grisaffi’s Cody conveys a certain devil-may-care roguish charm — when he’s not being a totally obnoxious, drunken jerk. Unfortunately, the kiss of death for a film entitled “Laughing Boy” comes from the fact that there just aren’t enough laughs to go around. Cody just keeps clanking ’em off the rim.

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