The same difficulty that afflicts so many of the attempts to turn “Saturday Night Live” sketches into features also bedevils “Jiminy Glick in Lalawood,” a sporadically amusing but more often flat comedy that takes the obese, blissfully clueless entertainment reporter Martin Short created for television to the Toronto Film Festival and involves him in an apparent celebrity murder in which he himself might be the perpetrator. Coming from a fellow of Short’s improvisational skills and genuine cleverness, of course, “Jiminy Glick in Lalawood” aims much higher than the usual run of SNL oafishness: not only does it want to be a satire of press junketing and “entertainment news” generally, but it’s also structured as a faux David Lynch movie, with Short himself appearing heavily made-up not only as the gruesome Glick but as the ethereal director, too. And it includes “interviews” in which the likes of Steve Martin, Kiefer Sutherland and Kurt Russell are treated to the Glickian mixture of insensitive and goofy questioning.
But despite all the effort, the picture’s ambitions are mostly unrealized, and its batting average is regrettably low. The self-absorbed Glick character, who can be amusing in smaller doses, grows pretty insufferable before the half-way point is reached, with the segments involving his family–Jan Hooks as his raunchy wife Dixie and their two chubby sons (Landon Hansen and Jake Hoffman)–coming across as particularly deadening. And while the whole Lynch business is a potentially rich idea, it remains strangely earthbound, with the mystery connected with it–the supposed death of actress Miranda Coolidge (Elizabeth Perkins), perhaps at the hands of her foul-mouthed husband (John Michael Higgins) or her distracted daughter (Linda Cardinelli) or her publicist (Janeane Garofalo), or Glick himself (who dreams he’s offed her)–an unfunny muddle. Even the clearly improvised interviews are scattershot affairs. Martin comes off best, offering some sharply knowing one-liners about communism in Hollywood, but Russell clearly finds Short impossible to watch without breaking up, and others have little more than walk-ons. (The film was partially shot, guerilla-style it would appear, at the Toronto fest in 2002.) Probably the best bit overall involves a movie shown at the festival called “Growing Up Gandhi,” which Glick praises (having slept through it) while everyone else pans it–a fact that insures his fame by getting him a one-on-one with reclusive director-star Ben DiCarlo (Corey Pearson). The clips shown from the phony epic itself are lame, but Pearson does a good job as a really dopey would-be auteur, and his Q&A with Glick has some laughs.
As for the star, he’s certainly an able farceur, quick with a quip, and his makeup is, as usual, superb. With him as the primary writer, there are bound to be lines that work. (The fact that Glick’s two sons are named Matthew and Modine, for example, or his inept reference to Forest Whitaker as Forrest Gump.) But the gems get lost in a much larger mass of mediocrity. If the movie had been pruned of the dross, it would be much more consistently funny.
But then it would also be about the length of one of Short’s Comedy Central shows–22 minutes of so (minus commercials). Which is probably where “Jiminy Glick in Lalawood” belongs.