Part Gen-X Gallagher, part face-pulling Jerry Lewis, popular standup comic Carrot Top attempts that inevitable crossover to the bigscreen in “Chairman of the Board.” The results, peppered with the comic’s signature gag inventions and enough fart jokes to keep your average 11-year-old in hysterics, are silly enough to assure the acquired-taste headliner a second turn in front of the camera. As for the film itself, wherein C.T. plays Melvin to Jack Warden’s generous Howard Hughes zillionaire, look for a fast break to discount houses, and then decent word of mouth in ancillary markets.
Carrot Top, whose real name is Scott Thompson, specializes in outrageous Rube Goldberg contraptions, such as the anatomically correct fanny pack and blow dryer for bald guys he pulls from his bag of tricks here. For TV gigs, he uses props as visual punchlines, and when one joke doesn’t connect, he reaches back into his bag. Like any number of Borscht Belt comics before him, he wins over an audience by pummeling it into submission.
Bigscreen format, it goes without saying, is a very different medium. The blissed-out bozo with the red locks can slow down, take a breather between quips, attempt to build character and maybe even fall in love with co-star Courtney Thorne-Smith of “Melrose Place.” At regular speed, the Topster proves surprisingly amiable.
Plot, jigsawed together by director and co-scenarist Alex Zamm, borrows shamelessly from a number of earlier adventures, including those undertaken by Pee-wee Herman and protags of the Bill & Ted pics. Carrot Top plays a Venice Beach surfer-inventor named Edison, who resides with a couple of slacker buddies (Mystro Clark and Jack Plotnick, attempting a lame Penn-as-Spicoli impression ). Down on their luck and minutes from the street (says their foul-mouthed landlady, played by Estelle Harris of “Seinfeld”), the roommates elect Edison to raise rent with his Glo Gunk and other inventions.
Setup leads to montage of Edison bombing at job interviews, including a very funny seg in which he unleashes (computer-graphic) killer bees to demonstrate his bug-zapper helmet. In a scene straight from “Melvin and Howard,” Edison happens upon an old kook by the side of the road. He lends a hand and learns motorist-in-need is tycoon Armand McMillan (Warden), a kindred spirit who enjoys surfing and playing Mr. Fix-it. McMillan, of course, dies and leaves controlling shares of his business to Edison, setting the scene for corporate skullduggery by McMillan’s nasty nephew (Larry Miller) and McMillan Industries’ chief competitor (Raquel Welch doing Mae West).
Per formula, Edison surprises everyone with genius ideas (TV dinners with real TVs, a lie-detector garment called the Bull Shirt, etc.), and the nasty nephew resorts to ever-more-desperate measures to drive company’s stock down and thereby wrest control.
Low expectations going in make “Chairman” a marginally agreeable time-killer. Zamm, who co-scripted with Al Septien and Turi Meyer, wisely relies on physical humor to shuttle us from routine to routine. Carrot Top is, by turns, imbecilic and charming as inventor hero; Miller is wonderfully apoplectic in the style of the screen’s best killjoys; Thorne-Smith and Warden, aware that this is no “Titanic,” provide just enough energy to appear involved.
Lensing by David Lewis is adequate, and music by Chris Hajian adjusts gamely to exploit beach and laboratory backgrounds. Real stars here are Eric Beer (Top’s forever airborne stunt double), and f/x crew, who can take a bow for the fun, retro exterior of McMillan Industries and 3-D models at work in Edison’s brain. And we mustn’t forget hair stylist Cindy Nakadaira, whose work here might also fall under special effects.