A film with the unenviable task of transforming David Spade from wiseacre-in-the-corner to leading man, "Lost & Found" tumbles off the sick-but-sweet balance beam "There's Something About Mary" walked so well by tossing off one too many jokes about child molestation and dog doo.

A film with the unenviable task of transforming David Spade from wiseacre-in-the-corner to leading man, “Lost & Found” tumbles off the sick-but-sweet balance beam “There’s Something About Mary” walked so well by tossing off one too many jokes about child molestation and dog doo. And while its target audience of young men will forgive the film’s crassness, the familiarity of its humor will make them say, “Been there, done that” in their best Spade impression. After fans of the comedian’s TV work provide pic with a decent opening weekend, “Lost & Found” likely will get lost in the “Matrix” phenomenon before getting temporarily found on vid shelves.

Pic provides a good five laughs in its 90-plus minutes, which is actually an impressive number considering the plotline is so ridiculously thin it probably couldn’t sustain an episode of Spade’s “Just Shoot Me” sitcom: Guy dognaps girl’s pooch in order to get closer to her, complications ensue.

Spade plays the guy, Dylan Ramsey, co-owner of an L.A. Italian restaurant who purports to be the financial brains behind the operation despite doing nothing for the business except berating a loan officer and insulting his employees.

So it’s no surprise that his business is going under and is in dire need of a money infusion from the bank, a plot element that is meant to provide a ticking clock to Spade’s pursuit of his neighbor Lila (Sophie Marceau), a French emigre who is wont to play her cello in pink lingerie.

Enter Jack, the mangy pup that Dylan steals and then pretends to search for. Not surprisingly, the dog ends up getting him into further trouble, gulping the anniversary ring that Dylan’s best friend (Mitchell Whitfield) had entrusted to him. Meanwhile, Lila’s obnoxious Parisian ex-boyfriend (Patrick Bruel) does his best to expose Dylan’s scheme.

By featuring a dog that sustains endless amounts of abuse, “Lost” forces unfavorable comparisons to “Mary.” But the far more questionable choice by the writers (Spade among them) is the teaming of Spade with a chubby dolt of a sidekick (Artie Lange). It’s as if they all entertained doubts that the skinny smirker could carry a film without at least a facsimile of his late comedy partner Chris Farley.

The film attempts to make up for its tastelessness and Spade’s general jerkiness by trying to show the comedian’s sweet side in the beginning of the third act. Results feel cloying and unconvincing, further underlining the fact that while Spade is funny in support, his persona as the ever-cynical naysayer is unappealing when placed center stage.

As Lila, Marceau is asked to look pretty, and while she does that, the “Braveheart” actress’s performance essentially ends there. Only Whitfield, in the thankless job of Spade’s foil, manages to rise above the material.

Tech credits are pretty good, with Paul Elliott’s camera full of sunshine and John Debney’s score adding bounce to the opening credits.

Lost & Found

Production

A Warner Bros. release of an Alcon Entertainment presentation of a Wayne Rice/Dinamo Entertainment production. Produced by Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Wayne Rice, Morrie Eisenman. Co-producer, Todd P. Smith. Directed by Jeff Pollack. Screenplay, J.B. Cook, Marc Meeks, David Spade.

Crew

Camera (CFI color), Paul Elliott; editor, Christopher Greenbury; music, John Debney; music supervisor, Michael Dilbeck; production designer, Rusty Smith; art director, Alec Hammond; set designer, Mindi Toback; set decorator, Stephanie Ziemer; costume designer, Susan Bertram; sound, Kim Ornitz, Glenn Berkovitz; assistant director, Jamie Freitag; casting, Jackie Burch. Reviewed at Warner Bros., N.Y., April 13, 1999. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Dylan Ramsey - David Spade Lila Dubois - Sophie Marceau Rene - Patrick Bruel Wally - Artie Lange Mark Glidewell - Mitchell Whitfield Millstone - Martin Sheen Uncle Harry - Jon Lovitz Mrs. Stubblefield - Estelle Harris Clara - Rose Marie Enid - Marla Gibbs Sylvia - Carol Cook

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