WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Considered as a precursor to the fabulous Memento, Mick Jackson's Clean Slate is a mild diversion. Both films are about a man with a faulty memory attempting to solve a crime. The former, of course, is an intricate and groundbreaking noir film. The latter, even with the added fun of comparison, is a flat and silly Dana Carvey starrer that at best is occasionally amusing and at worst is eye-rollingly bad.
Carvey plays Maurice Pogue, a private eye with said memory problem, in which his memory is wiped clean every night so that he wakes up in the morning with a "clean slate" with which to tackle his life and relationships and a seemingly unsolved crime. The premise sounds terrific, doesn't it? It gets better. Pogue is supposedly the key witness in an upcoming mobster trial, but if it becomes clear that he has amnesia, his life will be in further danger. Like Leonard in Memento, Pogue writes notes to himself (not etched in skin but on Post-It notes) about little facts he needs to retain. There's a gorgeous femme fatale (Valeria Golino) who needs his help, and there are all kinds of shady characters moving in and out of frame, and you'd think Clean Slate would be ripe for hilarity.
Sadly, no. The film is a series of missed opportunities, feeling more like a limp Saturday Night Live sketch than a full-bodied film. You can determine precisely where the screenwriter wants you to laugh, and you can feel the director and star willing you to smile, but it just ain't happening. The cause may be the casting of Carvey in a role that's too hefty for him. Even though it's a comedy, I never bought him as a gumshoe, and I never believed that the high-class people around him would hold him in such apparent esteem. Carvey seems to want to win the audience with trademark smirks and cluelessness, but the characterization and the material never really gel.
Still, I laughed three times. Carvey fans might want to consider a rental.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
MGM presents Clean Slate in a somewhat ugly anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical presentation. The film has a washed-out dated appearance. Colors are muted, and a lack of background detail gives the film a murky, flat look. Close-up detail is fine, but otherwise this is a very mediocre effort. I noticed many compression artifacts, and the print is hazy and grimy.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 2.0 track is merely adequate. The track sounds thin and unengaging, cracking a bit at the highs. Fidelity suffers greatly. Softer dialog is clear, but this is missing a whole lot of depth.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The theatrical trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
A mediocre film, and a mediocre disc. I think I'll go rewatch Memento.