Scott Marks 12:30 p.m., July 26
The posthumous swan song of comedian Chris Farley gives no cause for mourning. It is neither good enough nor bad enough for that. Without any question, it constitutes a serious comedown for Christopher Guest, the director of Waiting for Guffman, though perhaps we should remind ourselves that the "mockumentary" on which that one was modelled, and in which Guest participated as both actor and writer, This Is Spinal Tap, is far and away the high-water mark in the directing career of Rob Reiner. There must be something inherent in the form. Guest's present film is a tolerably competent, professional, industrious, uninspired, seemingly unmotivated line of gags in a field otherwise untilled: an exploratory expedition to the Northwest Territory in the early years of the last century, two weeks later in departure than the more storied expedition of Lewis and Clark. One of the more (one of the only) memorable jokes: an old codger's ongoing "experiment" to communicate with a fellow frontiersman through the latter's severed ear. Matthew Perry, Eugene Levy, Kevin Dunn. 1998.