“You have to be dumb to kidnap yourself,” whines Willard Fillmore (Norm Macdonald), a sad sack, second generation servant/slave (nice alliteration!) to his ruthless, wealthy, and miserly queen of baked goods boss, Virginia Crock (Elaine Stritch). As much of a no-brainer as that sounds, this is precisely the situation in which Willard and his excitable best friend Rusty P. Hayes (Dave Chappelle) inadvertently find themselves. For, what starts out as a simple pooch heist for a million dollar ransom, the intended victim being Miss Crock’s obnoxious ankle biter, quickly degenerates when the dog escapes. The crotchety old bat awakens the next morning to discover her house a shambles and Willard and Rusty’s ransom note left behind. With her pup safe at home, she leaps to the conclusion that someone kidnapped Willard. It’s not the first incorrect conclusion one of this film’s overwrought cast of characters leaps to, nor is Miss Crock’s disastrous initial decision to not pay the ransom the last miscalculation to come. Events become progressively, er, zanier and wackier, as Willard and Rusty frantically (mis)manage their deteriorating caper. By the time the humorless Pittsburgh detective (Daniel Benzsali) investigating the case has called in the SWAT team for the film’s finale, he’s embroiled in a sprawling and scattershot conspiracy involving psychopathic mortician Grover Cleaver (Danny DeVito) and Miss Crock’s business partner and paramour Chet Oswald (Sherman Hemsley). Writer/directors Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski really courted disaster by naming this film “Screwed,” but they almost get away with it…as long as you see this film at a discount matinee or on video. If you happen to be a Norm Macdonald fan, you’ll definitely get a kick out of this flick, as the Norm-ster pretty much just plays his sitcom/SNL alter ego here in a sort of unofficial echo of other, far less effective movie versions of SNL skits.
Conversely, if you can’t stand the man or his show, then consider yourself warned. If you do find yourself dragged along kicking and screaming to see this oddly punchless madcap comedy, however, there are at least enough daffy moments scattered about to make the experience tolerable, (although the film loses one star for showing us Hemsley — better known as TV’s George Jefferson — in a thong; a sight even more hideous than the scene showing Norm’s naked a*s). Though there aren’t a whole lot of belly laughs here, this is still a goofy grinner of a film perhaps best demonstrated by the presidential puns afflicting several characters’ names. “Screwed” is essentially a genial “Dumb and Dumber-Lite,” without the payroll, that’s been padded, stretched, and teased out to make it (barely) long enough for a theatrical release…but watered down and damaged in the process.