Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
Someone slipped up in the quality-control division over at the Saturday Night Live movie factory. Instead of the usual witless, shoddy, one-dimensional crap it usually churns out, SNL boxed and shipped a minor '90s comedic classicnot that anyone else noticed either. To be sure, a feature-length movie based on Al Franken's simpy self-help addict Stuart Smalley doesn't sound like a recipe for comedy gold. But Stuart's issues-on-top-of-issues shtick offered richer-than-usual possibilities, and Franken, who wrote the script, took full advantage. The film expands beyond the boundaries of Stuart's hapless self-help TV show and introduces the disturbingly realistic dysfunctional family that formed himan unraveling working-class unit headed by an alcoholic dad (veteran character actor Harris Yulin). Stuart, of course, is a mess, but his relentless 12-stepping makes him the only Smalley who's aware and concerned enough to try to turn the clan around. Franken is obviously close to this material (he also penned the 1994 dealing-with-a-drunk film When a Man Loves a Woman), and his script is a marvel of hilariously sustained self-help-speak dotted with familial scenes that provoke uncomfortable winces along with the laughs. Yulin deserves some sort of backdated B-movie Oscar for his scene-stealing performance, but it is Franken who truly impresses as he turns Stuart into a full-fledged character, and one well worth rooting for.