Johnny Brennan and Kamal have won a cult following with their phone prank audiotapes, but their move to the screen with "The Jerky Boys" disappoints. The film gets off to a lively start with the duo playing a pair of broke, beefy New York layabouts audaciously passing themselves off as Chicago hoods to Long Island gangster Alan Arkin and his henchman to get the kind of red-carpet treatment that starts with a Tom Jones nightclub show.
On the phone these guys are great--wildly imaginative, determinedly scabrous and absolutely fearless--but once they've hung up, having set their plot in motion, "The Jerky Boys" lapses pretty much into your standard-issue Mafia comedy in which these "Queens low-lifes" predictably wind up on top.
Brennan and Kamal themselves are comic dynamos, but for them to shine fully, their material has to be lots brighter than what they've devised here with Rich Wilkes and director James Melkonian.
Certainly there are laughs along the way and good support from Arkin, Vincent Pastore as Arkin's chief lieutenant and others, but unlike the paunchy Brennan or Kamal, "The Jerky Boys" is pretty thin.
\o7 * MPAA rating: R, for continuous use of strong language. Times guidelines: As the rating suggests, there is a torrent of four-letter words and obscenities throughout\f7 , \o7 but no sex and little violence.
\f7 'The Jerky Boys'
Johnny Brennan: Johnny B.
Alan Arkin: Ernie Lazarro
Vincent Pastore: Tony Scarboni
William Hickey: Uncle Freddy
A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Caravan Pictures presentation. Director James Melkonian. Producers Joe Roth, Roger Birnbaum. Executive producers Tony Danza, Emilio Estevez. Screenplay by Melkonian & Rich Wilkes, and John G. Brennan & Kamal Ahmed. Cinematographer Ueli Steiger. Editor Dennis M. Hill. Costumes John Dunn. Music Ira Newborn. Production designer Dan Leigh. Set decorator Ronnie Von Blomberg. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.
\o7 * In general release throughout Southern California.\f7