Picks and Pans Review: Stuart Saves His Family

updated 05/01/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/01/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Al Franken

Stuart Smalley, as originally conceived and performed by Franken on Saturday Night Live, is the pudgy, lisping host of a cable-access show dedicated, with the help of 12-step clichés, to magnifying his subatomic sense of self-worth. Trying to place this pathetic, one-dimensional character in a larger, cinematic landscape, Franken—who also wrote the script—has outfitted Stuart with a dysfunctional, middle-class, midwestern family in which his sister eats too much, his brother's a pothead and their father an alcoholic. If you wonder how Stuart Saves His Family can possibly sustain itself as a comedy given those sorts of characters—well, it doesn't try to, really, which is why you have dependable character actors like Harris Yulin and Shirley Knight playing Smalley's miserable parents. The pain and anger they reveal are raw and genuine. But there sits their son, with fake-looking puffy hair and a curling mouth that call to mind Cesar Romero as the Joker. These peas do not inhabit the same pod. Imagine Richard Simmons in a revival of Days of Wine and Roses. (PG-13)

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