Film review: Meet Wally Sparks

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4 1997 12:00 a.m. MST

Take Wally Sparks, please!

At 75, comedian Rodney Dangerfield isn't dead yet. But after "Meet Wally Sparks," a tasteless and extremely unfunny comedy he co-wrote and stars in, his career probably is.

How bad can things get, you may ask. Well, try hijinks involving drunken horses, a vulgar parody of Tom Cruise's lip-synched dance number from "Risky Business" and "humor" mined from having squirrels crawl into people's pants.

Dangerfield plays Wally Sparks, a talk-show host who makes Jenny Jones seem like the epitome of restraint. Unfortunately for Wally and his long-suffering producer, Sandy (Debi Mazar), his on-air antics have outraged advertisers and even his network president (Burt Reynolds, in perhaps the most ill-fitting wig of his career).

Given one last chance to clean up his act, Wally sneaks with Sandy into a fund-raising party for Georgia Gov. Floyd Preston (David Ogden Stiers), Wally's chief nemesis, with whom they hope to score an interview.

But after Wally takes a drunken horse ride through the governor's mansion, he's inexplicably proclaimed a hero. He also fakes an injury from the incident to prolong his stay and even manages to stumble onto a blackmail plot involving a corrupt Southern judge (Alan Rachins, in an even worse hairpiece) and a porn actress.

Dangerfield has never been an actor, and all the action is basically an excuse for him to use his worn-out standup shtick. But he's never stooped this low for yuks.

Even more embarrassing, if that's possible, are the turns from Williams, who shows off her not-so-svelte, pre-diet form in the aforementioned dance number, and both Rachins and Stiers (whose accents slip from scene to scene). Even the dependable Mazar looks bored, and who can blame her?

Of course, it also helps that the production values are so extremely chintzy and that director Peter Baldwin (who won an Emmy for his work on "The Wonder Years!") seems uninspired and unable to rein in any of his stars.

In a perhaps somewhat desperate attempt for credibility, there are a number of cameos from stars (Tim Allen, Roseanne, Jay Leno) and talk-show hosts (Jerry Springer, Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael). But the latter date the movie's already outdated material, especially Gabrielle Carteris, whose show was canceled long ago.

It should also be noted that there's a really dumb joke at the end of the credits. But realistically, audiences with a keen sense of smell will have already headed for the exits long ago — or smarter still, avoided this stinker altogether.

"Meet Wally Sparks" is rated R for vulgar, sex-related humor and gags, profanities, slaptick violence, some nudity and glimpses of nude statues and photos and two somewhat graphic sex scenes.