1 item from 1999
"The Big Tease" is at once deeply derivative though somehow hilarious. The film is wonderfully inhabited by Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson of "The Drew Carry Show", whose hilariously befuddled, hopelessly bemused Scottish hairdresser traversing the gilded surfaces and lower depths of world's entertainment-driven celebrity nexus yields some uproarious moments.
Warner Bros. was smart in pushing the film's release from the saturated late-fall market to early next year, where this unruly, bracing work should register strongly with young adults. Given the sustained laughter generated at its premiere during the Chicago International Film Festival, this movie will play to that audience.
In form and content, this R-rated adult production suffers somewhat from Deja Vu, coming so quickly after "Bowfinger" and "The Muse". But the script by Ferguson and Sacha Gervasi compensates with some explosive, uncompromising humor.
Director Kevin Allen, who made the radically different "Twin Town", gives the dark, off-center humor here an easy, tossed-off quality. This is another work that uses a fake documentary as a framing device. Crawford Mackenzie (Ferguson), Glasgow's most gifted hairstylist, turns up in Los Angeles for the World Freestyle Hairdressing Championship, where he intends to compete for the prestigious Platinum Scissors prize.
Followed by a BBC television crew recording his every action, Mackenzie is devastated to discover he was never formally invited to the competition but merely promised a prominent seat to observe the action. Thrown out of the luxurious five-star hotel (Larry Miller brings down the house as a smug hotel executive), Mackenzie drifts through a stylized, dreamy, vacant Hollywood populated by second-rate stars trying desperately to qualify for a HAG (Hairdressers of America Guild) card in order to be admitted into the competition.
With the camera crew there to record his ritual debasement, Mackenzie's nightmare becomes a comedy of entrapment. His only ally is a high-powered Hollywood publicist (Frances Fisher, very brittle and very funny) whose own appearance he has miraculously transformed. Inevitably, Drew Carey also turns up, in a piercing bit of self-depreciation that only elevates Mackenzie's professional status.
Weighing in at 86 minutes, "The Big Tease" goes down very easily, although the propulsive laughter of the first half dissipates in the second half. The problem is the other prominent parts are played by good actors (Mary McCormack, David Rasche) who aren't particularly funny, and their characters don't have the depth and detailing to create the same observational, blackly comic riffs of Ferguson. Even the big competition feels like a letdown given the attention it receives in the buildup.
But "The Big Tease", to its advantage, is not a comedy of manners, insight or behavior. It's meant to incite spasms of laughter, and there it succeeds more often than it has any right to.
THE BIG TEASE
Producer Philip Rose
Director-executive producer Kevin Allen
Sacha Gervasi, Craig Ferguson
Director of photography
Editor Chris Peppe
Production designer Joseph Hodges
Composer Mark Thomas
Crawford Mackenzie Craig Ferguson
Candy Harper Frances Fisher
Monique Mary McCormack
Stig Ludwigssen David Rasche
Martin Chris Langham
Hotel executive Larry Miller
Drew Carey Drew Carey
Running time -- 86 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1999
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