National Lampoon’s Favorite Deadly Sins (1995)

Rating: B-

Dir: David Jablin and Denis Leary
Star: Joe Mantegna, Denis Leary, Cassidy Rae, Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay

Though nominally an anthology film, with three sections looking at Lust, Greed and Anger, it’s more of a sandwich movie – Lust and Anger get barely ten minutes each, while Greed is by far the bulk (and the best) of the trilogy. To dispose of the bread first: Lust has Leary as a security guard enamored of the woman opposite. But things are not what they seem. They are, however, patently obvious, and Leary’s directorial skills are sadly lacking, despite assistance from Annabella Sciorra. Anger has Clay as a man with serious issues, and works largely because it’s short and thus punchy – I find the Diceman a bit too much like a nine-year old who’s just discovered swearing, and ten minutes is about my limit.

The filling, however, lacks for little: Mantegna’s TV producer specialises in “real-life dramas”, and decides to script a murder for trailer-trash waitress Rae, in order to make a TV movie about it. A blizzard of in-jokes – right down to the number on a prison uniform – plus cameos by Tanya Roberts and Charlene Tilton, make for excellent viewing that will have you cracking up and cringing simultaneously. It’s all much blacker than I expected, and escalates nicely to the pay-per-view execution, featuring a death-row production number where the executee is serenaded by Pia Zadora. Is Jablin a pseudonym for John Waters?