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Based on a Saturday Night Live sketch, A Night at the Roxbury features Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell as the Butabi brothers, a pair of dim-witted but lovable players who still live at home and work for their father in a flower shop. Doing everything together, they love the club scene even though they are so pathetic they can barely get in to any of them, most especially The Roxbury, the most famous on the strip. The pair have a dream of opening a club of their own with a very unusual theme. After an encounter with TV star Richard Grieco, they are finally let into The Roxbury and meet with its eccentric owner. Two gold-digging girls happen to see the boys talking with the wealthy man and assume they are equally rich, and so make their move.
Not long after, the four are alone in rooms across the hall from each other. The girls, looking to seal the deal flirt and display themselves invitingly to the men, both of whom have never in their lives gotten to this point and so are stuck in their go-to pick-up line mode, repeating the same idiotic and frivolous stories that have failed them over and over in the past. Both women though are convinced this ordeal will be worth it and eventually seduce the boys, realizing they are virgins. Finally, Doug and Steve have sex. In forty-two seconds.
While the movie is full of many catchy and memorable moments, the bedroom scene remains the most affecting as it reveals much about the boys. Presented as comedy but layered in much more, there is a lot to unpack. Doug, who is the designated leader of the pair, is hyper and overly-confident, clearly compensating for his small stature and what he feels is a dead-end life (even though he is very well off and has never really worked a day in his life). He’s constantly spastic and bitter, cynical and distrustful, burdened by a lifetime of failure that, ironically, he himself has set in motion. The aggressive party-boy persona that is in a perpetual state of male sexual courtship, puffed up and plumaged in bright colors, has in fact done the opposite of its intent, repelling females from first sight and like a creature ignorant of Darwinian evolution, refuses to adapt. It’s left him stunted and interestingly unaware of where the blame lies, not thinking he is the reason for his lack of success but rather everything and everyone else.
His brother Steve is a follower, doing and saying whatever Doug does. Innocent and good-natured, he’s far more positive but, as a product of his environment and the heavy influence of his brother, adopted the same traits and behaviors that have also left him without the experiences he deserves. Unlike Doug though, he doesn’t recognize this and only wishes to continue on as things are, gleefully content to stay the course. Worse, there is a girl that does like him, a vacuous neighbor that his father wants him to marry so the two businesses can merge. It’s combustive enterprise.
So the two venture out nightly to one failed encounter with girls after the next, Doug wrapping himself is bitterness and Steve deflecting. Then along come Cambi (Elisa Donovan) and Vivica (Gigi Rice). The girls misinterpret what they are seeing with the night club owner (played by an uncredited Chazz Palminteri), and looking only to latch on to some guys with money, think they’ve hit paydirt. What they get are two boys who have not only never had sex, but mostly likely anything leading up to it. They are the marquee but no show.
What makes this moment work so well is the boy’s seeming inability to recognize that there even is a next step after the ‘come on’, like it’s something that exists only in fiction. What’s really happening is the years of learned behavior, like rats in a maze with no treat at the finish, they run into the same walls thinking they’ve already reached the end. Even as the girls try to kiss them, they continue on oblivious to seduction, but also most importantly, delaying something they are not sure they are ready to try.
In a nice twist, the girls, who are not really painted as particularly bad people, aren’t put off by the discovery that their latest catches are virgins. They still have their eyes on the prize and this is just one more hurdle that is maybe kind of sweet. The film does a good job of letting that be a real reward for the boys rather than one more crippling experience that would further damage their already fragile personas. By finally having the treasure they so long have sought, the boys are given a real moment of genuinely earned joy. (Not that it hasn’t before! Or so they say to each other.) It’s a classic moment and one that could have easily been ruined but instead is perfectly executed and performed. Still, the boys have one more lesson to learn about sex when they see the girls on their second date. Suffice to say, showing up in your dad’s flower van might be an issue.
John Fortenberry, Amy Heckerling (uncredited)
Steve Koren, Will Ferrell
Chris Kattan, Will Ferrell, Raquel Gardner, Gig Rice, Elisa Donovan