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Rock Slyde: Private Eye (A Movie Review)

Rock Slyde – Private Eye


Starring Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, Rena Sofer, Elaine Hendrix, Jamie Alexander, Jason Alexander, Eric Roberts, Lea Thompson, Jason Manns, Terry Chen, Kristin Holt, Tom Bergeron, Guillermo Rodriguez, Jerry Cantrell and Brian Bosworth.

Screenplay by Chris Dowling.

Directed by Chris Dowling.

Distributed by Monarch Home Video. 86 minutes. Rated R.

It’s sort of like the chicken and egg conundrum for films: If there is a fantastic, rock-solid comic performance anchoring a not all-that-great movie, which do you credit first? Do you point out how terrific that the lead role is and wish that the rest of the movie could keep up, or do you bemoan the fact that such an undistinguished film would squander its star’s good work?

One thing is for certain. Patrick Warburton is the main – perhaps only – reason to see Rock Slyde – Private Eye. 

Rock Slyde is a parody of the old-fashioned hard-boiled detective film noirs of the 20s, 30s and 40s – but it is set in modern Los Angeles. Imagine Sam Spade obsessing about his eBay rankings, driving a Smart car, hiding a history in musical gay porn, and eating Cobb Salads and you know exactly where this movie is coming from. 

It’s certainly not the world’s most novel idea, bringing old-fashioned gumshoes into a world that has passed them by. In fact, during the 70s and 80s alone this was a pretty standard plotline – popping up in films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Murder by Death, The Black Bird, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Cheap Detective and TV series like Tenspeed and Brown Shoe and The Law & Harry McGraw

Granted, it is a style that has not been done all that often since the heyday of Neil Simon (who was responsible for two of the five above-referenced movies), so the makers of Rock Slyde are strangely bucking the trend. It’s like they are hoping that the idea is so retro that it is new again. 

It’s not. But Warburton’s complete submersion into the title character almost makes it seem fresh. Warburton plays it all straight. No matter how ridiculous his circumstances may be he stays in character. His unflappability makes it all seem funnier than it really is. 

Granted, this is playing right into Warburton’s strong suit. Best known as Elaine’s macho boyfriend Puddy in Seinfeld, Warburton has made a bit of a specialty in mocking standard gender expectations by playing stoic manly guys doing goofy things. Beyond Seinfeld, he took that tack as the title character in the cult TV series The Tick and in his current sitcom Rules of Engagement. 

As long as Rock Slyde is focusing on the trials and tribulations of the lead gumshoe, it is consistently amusing. However, when it strays to a religious group led by Andy Dick that is a too-obvious parody of Scientology and a strained love story with the clingy femme fatale who hires Slyde(funny and beautiful actress Rena Sofer is completely wasted in the thankless role), Rock Slyde starts to sputter.

Then there are a series of unremarkable cameos by the likes of Jason Alexander, Lea Thompson, Eric Roberts, Tom Bergeron, Alice in Chains leader Jerry Cantrell and Guillermo from Jimmy Kimmel Live that add nothing at all to the film’s forward momentum. 

However, Warburton is the fuel that keeps it all going. For him alone, Rock Slyde is worth seeing.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: August 5, 2010.


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