SITTING at a table during lunch break, Ed puts two grapes into his nostrils and offers his co-worker, Dexter, a piece of the fruit. When Dexter refuses, Ed says, "OK," pops them out and swallows them himself. In the kitchen, another employee squashes a fly on his own forehead with a spatula, peels it off and swiftly chomps it down with a grunt of pleasure. As children in the audience squealed in laughter, adults were tormented by the mindless humor of "Good Burger," a movie based on the Nickelodeon television series "All That."
"Good Burger," starring Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson, was directed by Brian Robbins. Based on a skit from the television show, three minutes are stretched into an interminable two hours of bathroom humor. While children in the Nickelodeon age group might be amused by it, parents might not appreciate a movie that combines stupidity with negative and thoughtless scenes and stereotypes. Even a refreshingly racially integrated cast can't carry a movie so trite and predictable.
The story begins with Ed (Kel Mitchell), a dimwitted but likable fast food employee who causes a car accident while rollerblading. One of the drivers, unlicensed Dexter (Kenan Thompson), has to work a summer job to pay for the damage he caused to his principal's (Sinbad) car. Working together at Good Burger, they become friends and together fight their evil competitor, Mondo Burger, which has opened across the street.
Ed manages to save Good Burger by making his own special sauce, which quickly becomes a hit. The rest of the movie depicts attempts by the evil manager of Mondo Burger to discover Ed's sauce recipe, and the destruction of Mondo Burger by Ed and Dexter.
The film unsuccessfully tries to add meaning when Dexter, pathetic but not poignant, confides to Ed his sadness at his father's desertion. Another anomaly appears at end of the movie, when Ed -- whose conversations up until now haven't progressed beyond sentences like "Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?" -- suddenly gives an intellectual and eloquent defense of his use of vigilante justice on Mondo Burger. It's funny, but because neither Ed nor anyone else had previous flashes of brilliance, the speech -- five minutes before the end of the movie -- just doesn't fit.
The fine art of slapstick humor depends on timing, a feeling of warmth toward the abused and a recognition of acceptable boundaries. "Good Burger" fails in all categories. A particularly disturbing scene is Ed's "big date," set up by the evil manager of Mondo Burger to discover the recipe for Ed's sauce. MTV's Carmen Electra plays Roxanne, who is willing to employ all her charms to trick Ed into divulging the recipe. The date is nearly fatal for this femme fatale when slapstick humor slams her with golf clubs and golf balls, whacks her head on a dashboard and finally leaves her with a neck brace and crutches.
Uncomfortably close to domestic abuse, this date-gone-bad goes too far to be funny.
Another scene, destined to infuriate mental health advocates, has Ed, Dexter and Otis (Abe Vigoda) imprisoned in a mental health institution called "Demented Hills Asylum," whose mission, it says, is "Restricting the Disturbed." Despite a funny cameo by George Clinton, while the patients dance -- Michael Jackson-style -- to Clinton's "Knee Deep," the portrayal of the mentally ill isn't just politically incorrect, it's barely funny.
To top it all off, the film simply falls short on originality. Relying on yet another stereotype, Nazi-esque bad guys, dressed in plastic space suits, are lead by Kurt, the Aryan-looking militaristic manager of the evil competitor, Mondo Burger. He's crafty, but goofy and ineffective, and his henchmen are bumbling and idiotic.
For the grand finale, Ed and Dexter destroy Mondo Burger by imploding it with chemically stimulated beef patties.
All is well for the heroes who can head back to Good Burger -- and better yet for an audience who can head out the door.
Rating:** Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thomp son in an adaptation of the Nickelodeon TV series "All That." Directed by Brian Rob bins. Rated PG, at area theaters.