Wally Sparks (Rodney Dangerfield) is the king of trash TV. His daily chatter is rife with sexual innuendo and worse; "Meet Wally Sparks" could have used a lot more of the former. A broad comedy of the kitchen-sink school, pic squanders a choice opportunity for satire, assailing the audience with mostly cheap gags and false sentiment.

Wally Sparks (Rodney Dangerfield) is the king of trash TV. His daily chatter is rife with sexual innuendo and worse; “Meet Wally Sparks” could have used a lot more of the former. A broad comedy of the kitchen-sink school, pic squanders a choice opportunity for satire, assailing the audience with mostly cheap gags and false sentiment. It has all the ingredients for a fleeting commercial run, modest ancillary biz and no more than passing curiosity overseas.

Wally’s star is on the descent as the picture opens. Other than the hard-core fans, his audience has jumped ship, and sponsors have followed. His boss (Burt Reynolds) is ready to pull the plug but offers the vet one week to turn his ratings around.

Opportunity arrives in the most unlikely fashion. Invited to a reception given by one of his staunchest detractors, Georgia Gov. Floyd Preston (David Ogden Stiers), Wally turns an embarrassing incident into a media event. He also feigns injury and coerces the politico into allowing him to stay in his home and broadcast the outrageous gabber from the residence.

One of the film’s crucial problems is that it has no anchor, and in director Peter Baldwin’s hands, this ship is rudderless. The staccato of Dangerfield one-liners periodically hits the mark, but there’s too much reliance on sketch comedy and not much narrative thrust. The combination tries one’s patience and erodes whatever faint sympathy one might have for Wally’s plight.

The screenplay by Dangerfield and Harry Basil doesn’t appear to have more than a passing acquaintance with the inner workings of the U.S. daytime talkshow scene. Story’s predictability and sticky sentiment clash with the caustic, ribald nature of the star’s persona.

It also doesn’t help that the picture has rather a harsh, staged look more befitting a TV sitcom. In fact, it’s a downright ugly-looking movie.

Unabashedly a vehicle for Dangerfield, “Meet Wally Sparks” has an impressive support cast reduced to playing hoary stereotypes. Nothing is quite as horrifying as seeing Cindy Williams drunkenly cavort in her underwear during an out-of-control card game. Much luckier are the celebs who pop up in uncredited cameos, including Tony Danza, Tim Allen, Roseanne, Jay Leno and Gilbert Gottfried.

The mayhem certainly allows the “Sparks” to fly in this romp, but nothing seems to ignite.

Meet Wally Sparks

Production

A Trimark release in association with Largo Entertainment. Produced by Leslie Greif. Co-producers, Harry Basil, Elliot Rosenblatt. Directed by Peter Baldwin. Screenplay, Rodney Dangerfield, Harry Basil, story, Basil.

Crew

Camera (CFI color), Richard Kline; editor, Raul Davalos; music, Michel Colombier; production design, Bryan Jones; art direction, Steve Karman; costume design, Alexandra Welker; sound (DTS Stereo), Stephen Halbert; stunt choreography, Charles Picerni; assistant director, John Vohlers; casting, Fern Champion, Mark Paladini. Reviewed at the Century Plaza, L.A., Jan. 22, 1997. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Wally Sparks - Rodney Dangerfield
Sandy Gallo - Debi Mazar
Emily Preston - Cindy Williams
Lenny Spencer - Burt Reynolds
Gov. Floyd Preston - David Ogden Stiers
Judge Randall Williams - Alan Rachins
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