Movies & TV / Columns

Misunderstood Masterpieces: It’s Pat

November 14, 2006 | Posted by Will Helm

Continuing the theme of Saturday Night Live-based films begun last week, this week brings another character from that storied program to the silver screen. The one problem is that this character may be even less wanted and even less liked than Stuart Smalley so, of course, that means the character is perfect for the cinema. I suppose these films work from the old adage that if something is annoying for seven minutes than it just needs a longer time to win the audience’s heart. Wait . . . that’s not an old adage; that’s just the ramblings of the insane . . . or Lorne Michaels.

The recurring Saturday Night Live character in question this week is Julia Sweeney’s obnoxious, androgynous alter ego, Pat Riley. And, no, it is not a bizarre version of the long-time, greasy-haired NBA coach, either; that probably would be funnier anyway. The key to the “Pat” character is that Pat would get into normal situations and the “hilarity” would stem from those surrounding trying to discern Pat’s gender and being thwarted at every turn. Perhaps, between Pat’s odd appearance and the strange conceit of the sketch, this would be entertaining once . . . maybe twice. Unsurprisingly, Pat became a long-running and recurring character on Saturday Night Live, so much so that, unbelievably, a film version was commissioned featuring the character in the lead. Released in 1994, It’s Pat came and went from theaters quickly and silently, leaving little behind in its wake. Should this film have been ignored with nary any publicity? Or, more likely, is it a Misunderstood Masterpiece after all? Let’s find out!

Perhaps to annoy me – because I’ve seen it far too much, the film opens with an opening monologue; to change up the tradition a little bit, the monologue accompanies a birth . . . from a first-person point-of-view. Thanks already, movie! After a few moments of cruising the inside of someone’s birth canal, the camera meets with obstetrician Tim Stack, who clumsily drops the camera. Well, it is covered with lady juice, so that makes sense. Before Tim Stack – who apparently went to medical school when he wasn’t a lifeguard or talk-show host – can declare a gender for the newborn, he’s rudely interrupted by an emergency in another room, so the mother (Beverly Leech) simply names the baby “Pat.”

Perhaps continuing the mother’s indecision and uncertainty regarding her child’s sex, she must hedge her bets later in Pat’s life as Pat grows to be an androgynous – and obnoxious – fourth grader. Pat rudely dismisses her – I’m not going to waste time with pronouns; since Julia Sweeney’s a woman, I’m going to refer to Pat as such . . . to hell with convention – classmates of both sexes on Valentine’s Day, which probably would be funny if the movie wasn’t so terrible already. Yes, it’s only about five minutes in and already I’m sick of watching the movie; luckily there’s only about eighty minutes to go. In high school, just to illustrate that Pat matured in the ‘70s, she has an afro for no particular reason. My sides are splitting. No, not really; that’d just make a mess on the couch.

Later in life, Pat works as a mail carrier – but not a male carrier . . . huzzah! – who takes time to read her route’s mail on the way to their houses. It is then, at age 33, that Pat reveals to the unlucky viewers that her life changes; the first step in that change occurs when her boss at the post office – while putting on a bullet-proof vest – has a little chat with Pat. It seems that some of her route isn’t happy with the fact that Pat is reading their mail, which also happens to be a federal offense. In lieu of sending Pat to jail – which would probably be difficult due to Pat’s androgyny – the boss simply fires Pat, which takes far longer than he expected because Pat just doesn’t understand the concept. Nope, Pat doesn’t get it; plan on seeing that statement a lot.

That evening, Pat stalks her neighbor Kathy Griffin (Kathy Griffin . . . she’s playing a character with the same name, but not herself, which is really confusing). It seems that Pat is obsessed with Kathy’s faulty VCR clock and so Pat volunteers to fix it . . . when the chance arises. Ah, there’s nothing like volunteering to do things at your convenience. Elsewhere, Pat goes to a drugstore where she terrorizes Kathy Najimy with double entendres regarding hygienic products and some mundane counterparts, because miscommunication is always funny! After Pat finishes her purchases, Kathy Najimy throws her out of the store and, hopefully, out of her life.

The next day, while Pat searches for some meaning to her life, she stares at a magazine and then she watches construction workers on a job site and astronauts walking down the street. No, I don’t get it either. Somehow, this bizarre scene inspires Pat to become a sushi chef . . . with a sneezing problem. Seriously. That evening, Pat walks in on a nearly naked Kathy Griffin and then Pat starts rambling about dust mites for no particular reason. Pat then sets Kathy’s VCR clock – which sounds far dirtier since Kathy Griffin is nearly naked – and then Pat patronizes her very perturbed neighbor about an impending date later that night. Kathy’s the one with the date, not Pat . . . not that that isn’t obvious. Pat then asks Kathy to tell the world that she’s unemployed via Kathy’s radio show, which, apparently, would help Pat to get a job . . . somehow.

For reasons unexplained – and inexplicable, Pat visits a gentlemen’s club the next day. Once inside, Pat messes with the thermostat – which, in Pat’s opinion, is set far too high; I’m sure the dancers would disagree – because, apparently, Pat’s now working for the local gas company. After Pat lowers the heat in the establishment, she waits at the bar for no reason and then transvestite Dave Foley shows up. The attraction between Pat and Dave Foley is palpable, so they shock each other and then slow dance. Dave, apparently – in addition to being another Lorne Michaels slave – is a bartender with a doctorate; Dalton would be proud. Pat then hits on Dave and they skip out of work and share the day together, where they walk past a movie theater and regale each other with inane conversation. There’s nothing more romantic than the androgynous in love.

The next morning, Pat – with Dave by her side – insults her new neighbors, Kyle (Charles Rocket) and Stacy Jacobsen (Julie Hayden) and then she falls down the steps, crushing her walnuts. No, literally. Dave, unconcerned that his new love is in great pain – due to crushed walnuts – introduces himself and Pat to the new neighbors. That evening, Dave and Pat propose to one another; in the meantime, Kyle – for reasons totally unexplained or unwarranted – becomes bizarrely obsessed with Pat. Luckily for him, to help satiate his obsession, Pat and Dave invite him and tons of other people to their engagement party. In the interim, Kyle spies on Pat, which is just . . . disturbing.

Meanwhile, Pat and Dave relax together and Pat reveals that she lost another job due to her rampant incompetence. Dave, like any disappointed lover, isn’t happy about Pat’s inability to provide income so he gets neurotic about the situation. Pat, of course, doesn’t get it. Later that night, Kyle spies on Pat more and confesses to himself – via a miniature tape recorder – that he’s both attracted and repulsed by Pat. It’s too bad he doesn’t have an Internet connection; I’m sure there’s plenty of Thai ladyboys on there who could ease Kyle’s curiosity. Kyle, intent on learning Pat’s true gender, watches as Pat goes to the bathroom . . . while standing up! Kyle, with discovering incriminating evidence on his mind, breaks into Pat’s apartment and watches in horror as Pat . . . empties a carton of orange juice into the toilet. Yup.

Dave and Pat, lovely couple that they are, have their engagement party and everyone there wonders aloud about the couple’s sexuality. Unfortunately, none of the carefully chosen gifts provide any sort of revelation as Pat and Dave skillfully evade any sort of specific statement. Later in the night, Pat forces Dave to take part in a bout of karaoke and they’re terrible at it. Of course, that doesn’t stop Pat, who, after a few drinks, entertains the crowd with her renditions of ironic songs. Back at his apartment, Kyle starts drinking heavily and Stacy is suspicious and bitter because she knows the reason why: he’s in love with Pat and he knows it! Dum-dum-DUM!

Kyle, in order to satiate his hunger for Pat – which really just is so disgusting, visits Pat and watches as she types into her laptop diary; Kyle, his interest piqued, desires to break into said diary . . . and he covets Pat’s banana as well. Ick. Kyle, in addition, confesses to Pat that he got her a television gig thanks to her performance at the engagement party; really, it’s just a ruse to discover Pat’s gender once again. Unfortunately, all of Pat’s answers are still inconclusive.

Before the appearance, Pat tells everyone about the television appearance and then she and Dave have an argument while driving a driver’s ed car. Yes, it actually does happen like that. Pat’s big gig finally comes around and, shockingly, it’s on “America’s Creepiest People.” Well, I’d say Pat certainly qualifies. Kyle watches obsessively while everyone else in the movie watches horrified. Then, after Pat’s videotape is shown, sexuality expert Camilla Paglia has a short interview on the show for no particular reason. That has to be the oddest guest appearance I’ve seen in a long time.

After the show’s over, Kyle waxes poetic about Pat and then, as if on cue, Pat conveniently comes for a visit. Kyle and Pat, to celebrate the success of the television appearance, share a toast together and then Kyle tries to persuade Pat into dancing with him. Pat doesn’t relent, so Kyle attempts to seduce Pat and Pat, wisely, freaks out and leaves the premises. Luckily for Pat, in order to calm her nerves, Dave calls to reconcile with Pat. It isn’t all wonderful, though, as Kyle attempts to break into Pat’s apartment via the window while she’s on the phone. Pat, thinking quickly, closes the window and Kyle falls to his apparent death!

The next day, Pat walks the streets and she runs into the band Ween – for absolutely no reason. Ween, having seen Pat on television the night before, invite her to their next gig because they’re shooting a video and they’d like her to be in it. At the show, Pat plays the tuba with the band and then she annoys Ween after the show is over. Luckily, Pat also has a psychosomatic mushroom trip backstage but Ween is on hand to calm her down . . . by telling her that they’re normal store-bought mushrooms. Sure they are, guys . . . sure they are.

Later, Stacy asks Kyle for a divorce due to his bizarre obsession while Pat practices the tuba. Pat then goes to the next Ween gig looking to perform with the band again but they, thinking it was only a one-time thing, try to cut her loose diplomatically. Pat, of course, doesn’t get it . . . and then she finally flips out and leaves. After Pat returns home dejectedly, Dave arrives on the scene to console his distraught ladylove . . . or androgynous love as the case may be. Pat, selfishly, simply wants sympathy but Dave only has words of wisdom for Pat. Pat, upset with Dave’s seemingly nonchalant attitude toward her suffering, gets indignant; Dave contends that Pat should be substantial rather than just self-absorbed and so he dumps Pat.

That night, Pat has a nightmare and she keeps seeing the scolding face of Dave everywhere around her. Pat then wakes up and, to her horror, she discovers that her diary is missing! Pat then goes to Kyle for consolation and, disturbingly, he’s started dressing like Pat. After trying to pry the password out of Pat for the diary, Kyle takes his leave and attempts to break into Pat’s diary once again, this time using the dictionary to discover the password . . . as per Pat’s lone hint on the matter. Hmm . . . it’d be really funny if the password were “androgyny.”

Meanwhile, Pat hits the mean streets of whatever city this takes place in – I think it’s Los Angeles, but I could be wrong – looking for her diary. She ends up accosting a gang of eloquent toughs on a street corner and, after she asks them for her diary, they ask her about her indeterminate gender. Pat freaks out at the mere intimation that there’s something questionable there . . . until she looks up “androgynous” in the dictionary and finds a picture and description of herself! Oh, hilarity. Pat, seeking to change her look to something a little more gender-specific, visits a salon and the stylist attempts a multitude of styles on Pat. Expectedly, she rejects them all . . . except for the exact same style she had to begin with. Gee, thanks for nothing, movie!

After her spell at the salon, Pat visits Kathy Griffin at the radio station where, apparently, Kathy isn’t an obnoxious comic but a therapist. Pat tries to get Kathy to get her a job but, through a convoluted series of events, everything works out for the better when Pat starts answering Kathy’s callers! Pat ingratiates herself to the listeners but Tim Meadows digs the whole catastrophe; not surprisingly, Kathy isn’t too happy about the situation, so Tim Meadows fires her and hires Pat to take over the show. Later that evening, Pat absent-mindedly visits Kathy to tell her the good news and, when Kathy informs Pat of the true situation, Pat doesn’t understand why it’s wrong. She just doesn’t get it.

On her show, Pat demeans her listeners like a low-rent, androgynous Howard Stern. Midway through her first program – or long into her series . . . the film has a problem with time at this point – Kyle actually calls into Pat’s show confessing his obsession. Pat, of course, doesn’t get it. That night, Dave visits Pat, this time not to reconcile but to inform Pat that he’s going on a quest to find himself in Tibet; he’s having a hard time doing it, however, since he’s still in love with Pat. Hmm . . . I always thought that was Mango’s shtick. Unless Chris Kattan is a damned shtick thief! Perhaps I’ll find out next week . . .

Anyway, Kyle, now with a creepy Pat doll by his side, makes the doll type into Pat’s computer for him. After attempting a few words beginning with “z,” Kyle finally breaks into the diary and he makes out with the Pat doll. Meanwhile, Dave has a flashback about Pat spitting on him for some reason, so he calls into Pat’s show semi-anonymously for advice on the situation. Pat, as per usual, doesn’t get it, so she advises Dave to go off to Tibet and leave Pat behind. Elsewhere, Kyle reads the diary and, much to his horror, he discovers that . . . Pat’s life is incredibly inane! Kyle finally has a nervous breakdown and then he attempts to lift his own spirits by calling into Pat’s show with a funny accent and confessing that he’s holding the diary for ransom.

The next day, Pat goes to Ripley’s to meet with a now insane Kyle, who is waiting for her in a hall of mirrors . . . which should be symbolic, but just isn’t. Perhaps it’s just to highlight the fact that Kyle has now completed his transformation into a Pat impersonator. Not a good one, but it’s the thought that counts. Kyle finally confronts Pat about her inconclusive gender and he tells Pat that she can have her diary back once she . . . GETS NAKED! Oh no. OH GOD NO! Anything but that, movie . . . anything but that!

Pat, sensing my indignation and horror, freaks out and leaves the hall of mirrors and she runs right into . . . another Ween gig. Well, I’ll give Ween some credit; they sure are making the most of this feature appearance. It sure beats being back home in New Hope. Kyle follows Pat to the theater and they have a confrontation on a catwalk precariously perched over the stage. Somehow, through another convoluted series of events, Pat falls off the catwalk and gets herself hooked on a conveniently placed hook which, somehow, tears off her pants. Amazingly, Pat is then lowered down to the stage and, while the crowd witnesses the horror that must be Pat’s bizarre genitalia – they give it a standing ovation, though – Kyle and I simply have to make do with Pat’s rubbery derriere. Luckily, Kyle gets arrested; meanwhile, I’ll have that image burned into my psyche forever.

After Ween comforts Pat – and stitches up her pants – after the show, Pat goes off in search of Dave. Speaking of Dave, he’s waiting patiently in line for the cruise to Tibet . . . which must be pretty nifty, considering Tibet is landlocked. Pat, seemingly for an eternity, runs around Los Angeles until she finally makes it to the docks and catches up with Dave. They happily reconcile and then they get married in Tibet with everyone else from the movie – except for Kyle, since he’s probably in jail – there to cheer them on. Yay.

I know it’s unbelievable, but I never would have thought that such and annoying character would make such a boring movie, Clocking in at only around eighty minutes or so, It’s Pat is torturous from the very start to the very end. So dull is It’s Pat that I actually – and this may be a little gross for younger readers and a little too honest for older readers – trimmed my toenails while watching the film for this column. No lie. Shockingly, that was far more exciting than It’s Pat. I can only imagine that there is a level of Hell where It’s Pat is shown on a constant loop since just watching it once seems like an eternity. It’s a good thing that my DVD player has a timer on it, or else I’d be trapped in another Misunderstood Masterpiece!

Join me next week as I finish up the Saturday Night Live trilogy with an aforementioned shtick thief and a true movie-star . . . a bit before he learned to love scotch. Then, coming in December, it’s the WORST MOVIES OF 2006™! See you then!


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Will Helm
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