Perhaps it's because most people turn it off during its slow first half hour. But those who refrain are justly rewarded: Jeff Goldblum and Rowan Atkinson dancing in nuns' habits and sequined red mini-skirts! A giddy, out-of-the-blue montage in which all the characters sing along to "It Must Be Love"! An absurd staging of a musical version of The Elephant Man, featuring the heartrending love song "He's Packing His Trunk"! And a furniture-destroying, milk-carton-flattening, piano-playing sex scene that would've topped this list had I known about it.
Goldblum (like Oliver Platt, John Malkovich and Christopher Walken) is best at playing himself, and even then it's hit-or-miss. But his character here -- Dexter, a charming, hapless West End theatre imp -- is a perfect fit. Who else can deliver the line "I hope all your children have very small dicks! And that includes the girls!" with such hollow, self-aware aplomb? Throw in Rowan Atkinson as a megalomaniacal comic ("What in the name of Judas Iscariot's bumboy is going on?") and Thompson as a carnally blunt antidote to Meg Ryan ("Are you going to walk me home? Or should I just get murdered on my own?"), and you've got a refreshing, exuberant bit of British irreverance toward sex, dating and theatre. Consider this exchange between Dexter and his prim, glib agent Mary, who is decidedly un-Poppinsish:
You can guess who plays the lead in "Elephant!" The results rival the hilarity of "Red, White & Blaine."
AGENT: Well, the only other thing at the moment is a new musical that the RSC are doing.
DEXTER: Er, what's it about?
AGENT: The Elephant Man.
DEXTER: A musical of the Elephant Man? What's it called?
AGENT: "Elephant," I think -- with an exclamation mark presumably.
DEXTER: Pity the poor bastard who has to play the elephant.
AGENT: Remember dearest, everyone thought Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.
DEXTER: Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.