Directed by Ken Kwapis, who previously guided "Seinfeld"'s Jason Alexander through his feature paces with the ill-fated and similarly thin "Dunston Checks In", the fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, about an ambitious beautician who leaves Queens behind for a gig tutoring the children of a stern, Eastern European dictator (Timothy Dalton), never really clicks into gear despite obvious similarities to Drescher's hit TV series.
Although she has a loyal at-home following, "Beautician"'s boxoffice prospects don't look too pretty.
Written by Todd Graff, a longtime friend of Drescher and her husband and co-executive producer Peter Marc Jacobson, the vehicle is essentially "The Nanny Goes Abroad", with Drescher having to make few adjustments in her transition from Fran Fine to Joy Miller.
Stopped on a New York City street with an unusual job offer from a persistent emissary (Ian McNeice), Joy quickly finds herself saying goodbye to her pushy mother (Phyllis Newman) and her sympathetic father (Michael Lerner) before she's whisked off to the former Communist country of Slovetzia, to teach the four children of president-for-life Boris "The Beast" Pachenko (Dalton) Western ways.
Operating under false pretenses -- due to a misunderstanding, Joy is believed to be a science teacher -- the beautician schools the kids in matters concerning accessorizing and frequent flyer miles, while giving Boris a tip or two in transforming his less-than-benevolent image. After a rocky start, the two begin to feel the pangs of attraction, much to the displeasure of Pachenko's old school right-hand man, Kleist (Patrick Malahide).
While the vehicle would appear to be tailor-made to Drescher's effervescent talents, it seldom gets up to speed. For what purports to be a romantic comedy, there just isn't much chemistry to speak of between her and Dalton.
But while Drescher's "fine whine" is very much intact, both Kwapis' direction and Graff's script feel a couple of beats off. As a result, a number of comic set-ups and pay-offs simply don't match up. Drescher appears to be timing some of her line deliveries against a non-existent laugh track.
With a major chunk of the picture filmed on location in the Czech Republic, the production values are cost efficient. Costume designer Barbara Tfank has provided Drescher with a Day-Glo wardrobe that effectively screams "Queens chic".
THE BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST
A Koch Company production
in association with High School Sweethearts
Director Ken Kwapis
Screenwriter Todd Graff
Producers Howard W. "Hawk" Koch Jr.,
Executive producers Roger Birnbaum,
Fran Drescher, Peter Marc Jacobson
Director of photography Peter Lyons Collister
Production designer Rusty Smith
Editor Jon Poll
Costume designer Barbara Tfank
Music Cliff Eidelman
Casting Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson
Joy Miller Fran Drescher
Boris Pachenko Timothy Dalton
Grushinsky Ian McNeice
Katrina Lisa Jakub
Kleist Patrick Malahide
Jerry Miller Michael Lerner
Karl Adam La Vorgna
Judy Miller Phyllis Newman
Running time -- 105 minutes
MPAA rating: PG