[box cover]

Stella Street

Doing impressions is an old comic stand-by, and usually only good for a cheap laugh. Sure, it's an art-form and few have a great mastery of it, but — like juggling — it's not a skill to make a film career out of. Just look at "Saturday Night Live"; the people who break out to movies are the ones with personalities, while the better mimics (like Dana Carvey or Martin Short) end up flailing. It's because the art of a good impression is being able to summarize another human being in a few brief gestures, tics, and vocal inflections. It's an impressive talent, but it usually only creates one-dimensional characters — a hard habit for any actor to break. The other problem with impressions is that it takes real doing to make these characters interesting when appearing longer than skit-length. Which is the problem with Stella Street (2004), a film building on the success of the 1997 British television show of the same name. The program featured comedians John Sessions and Phil Cornwell doing sketches riffing on such famous people as Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Michael Caine (performed by Cornell), Keith Richards, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Dustin Hoffman (Sessions) — the idea being they all live in the same neighborhood in an English suburb with other wacky characters (played by Cornell and Sessions). And though the film is barely feature-length (83 min.), the narrative doesn't kick in until more than halfway through when the celebs invest money with stoner Tony Stanford (Sessions), who scams away their dough and leaves them penniless, doing lame jobs, and eventually homeless. To provide some female impressions of people like Posh Spice and Madonna, the cast is rounded out by Ronni Ancona. The impressions are good enough, with Cornwell's Bowie and Sessions's Pacino the highlights, but both actors have their limitations — their Jagger and Richards are clichéd and half-assed. But even though the majority of impressions are good enough for a sketch, seeing Jack Nicholson play cricket isn't even all that funny a comic conceit to begin with. On top of that — with the exception of David Bowie — these performers have been mimicked so many times that there's not a lot of comic energy left in simply doing a "Jack." Perhaps, though — like Mr. Show's Run Ronnie RunStella Street just doesn't translate to the big screen. Columbia TriStar presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary from John Sessions and Phil Cornwell and a "making-of" (20 min.). The rest of the extras center on the performers doing their characters: "Lost Movie Classics" (10 min.) offers a look at the faux-Caine (Cornwell) epic "Bongo in the Congo," while "Caine's Soho" (8 min.) offers Cornwell driving around London talking about the swinging '60s; "Jimmy Up West" (1 min.) offers the character Jimmy Hill commenting on a trip, while "Len and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (5 min.) offers the film's insane gardener character's (Cornwell) thoughts on life and the movie. Also included are a music video, the trailer, and bonus trailers. Keep-case.

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