Soapdish – Dishes Up A Hilarious Spoof of Soaps

I’m not a fan of spoofs, parodies, etc., for one reason. Hardly anyone can do them. The old Mad Magazine of days long gone was an exceptional exception. It was so witty it warped the fertile minds of my generation forever and made us throw tomatoes, if not rocks, at anything or anyone that didn’t measure up.

I know humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but come on — admit it. Most of the movies called spoofs are so silly they’d make you barf if you didn’t snap off the TV fast enough. Not so with Soapdish.

This movie has a star-spangled cast that delivers. It pokes some really funny fun at soap operas both in front of and behind the cameras. It doesn’t go over the top. Neither is a there one single boring moment. And though it is a parody of an amoral society, it depicts the amorality with a measure of restraint. Actually, better restraint than most TV shows and commercials.

Sally Field plays an aging ingenue, Celeste Talbert/Maggie, who still rules the show as “America’s Sweetheart”, but younger hopefuls are pressing hard on her heels. Whoopi Goldberg plays the lead writer, Rose, whose undying loyalty to Celeste puts her square in the star’s corner as friend and reality-check confidante.

But it doesn’t help that the show, the long-time daytime ratings giant “The Sun Also Sets”, is taking a plunge. As their network executive Edmund Edwards (Gary Marshall) said, they’d almost taken a backseat to a woman cooking sausages.

One of the soap’s supporting cast members, Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty), who plays Nurse Nan, holds out feminine favors to Producer David Barnes (Robert Downey, Jr.), if he will help her sabotage Celeste’s career so she can get the lead part. Then comes starry-eyed college girl Lori Craven/Angelique (Elisabeth Shue), Celeste’s niece, wangling her way onto the show and gets what is meant to be a small part as a homeless person.

But the main villainous plot introduces the incomparable Kevin Kline as Jeffrey Anderson, who 20 years before played Celeste’s love interest, Dr. Rod Randall, both on and off-screen, until Celeste sabotaged his career for a personal reason. For years Anderson’s role has been relegated to the lead in “Death of A Salesman” — to tottering and mostly deaf retirees at a half-baked dinner theatre in Florida. And now, payback is a-comin’.

As the network gets more desperate for ratings, ancient history and egos collide. Then the dialogue both on and off-screen starts getting more personal — and more human — while Rose and the crew watch in wide-eyed wonder, with Rose bemoaning, “Why can’t I write #$%@ like that”.