appears to be another Saturday Night Live washout. Every cast has one or two -- those quirky, unusual comics who seem refreshingly original while on the show, but then they break away and seem to suffocate without the net of SNL's rotating pool of talented writers and performers. If her name isn't familiar, her face should be. Performing on SNL between '99 and '06, she created such memorable (and often repulsive) characters as Debbie Downer, Nicole (the girl with no gaydar), and one of The Lovers (with Will Farrell). Since leaving the show, however, she's done a number of one-off appearances, a short stint on 30 Rock, and a few small roles in feature films. Now she's striking out on her own with Spring Breakdown, a film she conceived, co-produced and co-stars in.
And it is awful. Absolutely, spectacularly awful.
Devoid of almost anything resembling comedy at all, this is a direct-to-video failure with a weak premise and terrible execution. When a Kay Bailey Hutchison (Republican senator from Texas) parody finds that she might be nominated to replace a disgraced sitting vice president, she goes on full alert to keep her family out of the media. There's only one hitch: She's got a nerdy daughter (Amber Tamblyn) desperately trying to keep up appearances that she is a popular girl just like her mom was in college. So she decides to go on a spring break rampage, as only nerdy girls can. In order to keep her out of the papers, Mama Hutchison sends one-time nerdy girl (and now aging cat lady) Parker Posey to keep an eye on her. Taking the chance to go on the spring break they never had, Posey's similarly socially-handicapped friends (Rachel Dratch and fellow SNL alum Amy Poehler) tag along.
This thing plays out pretty painfully. Dratch kind of reprises her SNL/Nicole role as she is about to marry a fellow who is not ... uh, straight (played by yet another SNL alum, Seth Meyers). Posey is trying to impress her boss to move up the political ladder. And Poehler is a dog trainer who can't get a date. Instantly, spring break changes them all. Poehler falls in with a party girl group known as the 7's and becomes their drunken den mother. Dratch falls in love with a 20-year-old guy personified in the film by his bright blue hat, killer abs, and lack of dialogue. She also spends the movie drunk. Meanwhile, Posey tries to keep the nerdy girls on the path of playing Boggle and talking about their feelings. But Tamblyn occasionally flips out as her ex-boyfriend occasionally walks back into the film, and she tries to be a party girl to impress him. Once all this is established, it becomes a case of lather, rinse, repeat.
One joke -- one joke -- in the whole film made me laugh, and of course it had to be Poehler (who can be very funny when given the right material) who managed a solid guffaw from me. Otherwise, it's a painful film that walks boldly through cliches and never finds anything new or funny to do with them. Sap all of the testosterone out of Old School, then replace all the funny jokes with the takes that just didn't work, and you get an approximation of what this is. Tired, painful, and without any merit whatsoever, this is easily one of the worst things I've seen all year.
The extras include some additional scenes that fill in a few blanks and a completely worthless gag reel of people flubbing lines or cracking up -- but never in a way that's worth watching.
Spring Breakdown is available now from Warner Home Video.