Starring and co-written by a Glaswegian, directed by a Welshman and financed by a U.S. major, “The Big Tease” is a silly, often funny and finally engaging mocku-comedy that’s the “This Is Spinal Tap” of the Hollywood crimping scene. Toplining “Drew Carey Show” regular Craig Ferguson, a former standup comedian who’s now almost better known in the U.S. than his native Scotland, pic is hardly original in its satirical look at L.A. posers, and may appeal more to foreign auds than Americans. But with an inventive push by WB, which opens the film in New York and L.A. on Sept. 24, this modest, offbeat item could find a small place in the market.
Ferguson plays Crawford Mackenzie, a self-confident, all-tartan hairdresser who leaves his mincing b.f., Gareth (helmer Kevin Allen), in Glasgow to attend the World Freestyle Hairdressing Championship in L.A., as a competitor repping Scotland. Or so he thinks. After checking into the Century Plaza and calling room service, Crawford is told by World Intl. Hairdressing Federation prez Monique (Mary McCormack) that he’s been invited simply as an observer. Worse, his credit card doesn’t impress the hotel manager (Larry Miller).
Crawford, along with a sour BBC docu director (Chris Langham) he has dragged along to chronicle his success, moves to seedier lodgings and, chutzpah hardly dented, sets out to parlay his way into the championships. Thereafter, pic turns partly into a satire of L.A. celebrity culture, as Ferguson, who’s not above doing a phone impersonation of Sean Connery to get a meeting, tries every way to use his HAG (Hairdressers of America Guild) credentials as entree to the competition.
Stig Ludwigssen (David Rasche), a psychopathic Norwegian-gone-SoCal hairstylist, rapidly ejects Crawford when he doorsteps his salon seeking an endorsement, not least because Stig himself is competing. Crawford finally manages to befriend — in a sequence that injects the first genuine emotion in the film — and bed powerful publicist Candy Harper (Frances Fisher), who gets on his side and works the system.
The script has its share of jokes (Crawford: “I’m from Glasgow.” Hotel clerk: “I love The Beatles.”), but most of the cross-cultural humor is smiley rather than laugh-out-loud. Ferguson and co-scripter Sacha Gervasi have a fine ear for the vocabulary and cadences of L.A.-speak, and are at pains to show that Crawford is every bit as shallow and manipulative as the people he encounters.
The movie’s accent on character-driven humor gives it the emotional underpinnings that make the finale — centered on the competition — work, even when director Allen (“Twin Town”) pushes the antics way over the top.
Look of the picture slides between mockumentary and low-budget feature, and throws caution to the wind in the final reels with a feel-good soundtrack and feature-style cutting. It’s a tribute to Seamus McGarvey’s lensing that there’s no sense of friction between the various looks.
Ferguson, whether addressing the camera head-on or dashing around L.A., is splendid as the fast-talking Scotsman, whose ego is regularly punctured by Langham’s tired, English documaker. As the publicist who enjoys spiking fellow media-ites, Fisher is equally good, and clearly relishes the freedom of the part. Rasche, sporting long blond locks and a dead-on, vaguely foreign accent, is fine, as is McCormack, the honcho who can spin on a dime. Various names, including Drew Carey, cameo as themselves.