“A complete catastrophe” is how a character describes one of the idiotic CIA plots to get rid of Fidel Castro that are (atrociously) satirized in “Company Man.” Unfortunately, it’s a description that can also be applied to Peter Askin and Doug McGrath’s picture itself. One suspects that it’s the calibre of stuff one might expect of Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Society on a really bad night; though it boasts a host of big-name performers in the cast, it’s a cruelly amateurish effort.

The supposedly sharp and whimsical plot centers on a buttoned-down grammar teacher named Quimp (McGrath), who accidentally becomes a member of the CIA and is sent to Cuba in the pre- revolutionary days of 1959. A hapless fool who corrects everybody’s imperfect speech, he gets involved with Castro (Anthony LaPaglia), President Batista (Alan Cumming), the CIA station chief (Woody Allen), one CIA operative who’s a double agent (Denis Leary) and another who’s a lunatic out to off Fidel (John Turturro). Hovering in the background is Quimp’s harridan of a wife (Sigourney Weaver) who longs for fame and fortune. The whole horrible thing is related as a succession of flashbacks in supposedly amusing testimony about the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion before a two-man panel headed by a senator (Jeffrey Jones).

The goal here was apparently to construct something off-the-wall and cerebrally hilarious, like Allen’s early films. But the quality of jokes in “Company Man” can be divided into three categories–lame, lamer and lamest. The chief culprit is certainly McGrath, whose 1996 version of “Emma” with Gwyneth Paltrow was quite nice. Not only is the material he and co-conspirator Askin have concocted utterly puerile and sophomoric, but in the lead role he seems like an arrogant but completely untalented college thespian who writes bad plays to inflict himself endlessly upon unwary audiences. He’s cajoled a bunch of able people to humiliate themselves in supporting roles. Allen’s presence is probably that of a friend–McGrath co-wrote “Bullets Over Broadway” with him–but it’s still sad to see Woody looking drawn and wizened, gamely reciting nervous throwaway lines of stupefying banality. What pros like Weaver (unbelievably shrill and forced to go bald in one awful plot twist), Cumming (who acts as though he’s doing drunken charades), Leary (doing a frantic routine very poorly), Turturro (even more manic than usual), Ryan Philippe (looking appropriately puzzled) or LaPaglia (happily hidden beneath Castro’s beard) are doing here is anybody’s guess; their presence would be truly embarrassing if it weren’t for the fact that only a handful of viewers are ever likely to see them.

As the picture–a mere eighty-one minutes long, though seeming to last forever–finally limps to a close, we hear a final, hysterical plea from Allen: “Please tell me it’s just a bad acid trip.” Sorry, Woody, but “Company Man” is all too horribly real.