The trouble with spoofing soap opera is that its dramatically deranged conventions - dead characters resurrected, hitherto unknown progeny claiming birthrights and bedrooms, characters metamorphosed into new actors - are already so absurd they are hard to send up any further. Soapdish, which has a good try, is neither as wacky as Soap nor as weird as Twin Peaks, and although it has already tickled American funny bones, British comic sensibilities are less likely to be engaged by this behind-the-scenes saga of daytime drama queen Celeste Talbert (Field), her ex-paramour and killed-off co-star redux Kevin Kline, or the schemings of randy producer Robert Downey Jr. and deeply throaty co-star Cathy Moriarty to rid themselves of the temperamental leading lady.
In the course of a plot that embraces every soap cliche from the shoulder padded superbitch to the love child revelation to the mysterious fatal illness, Field's shrieking hysterias and Kline's slapstick pratfalls acquire an air of desperation as the jokes get thinner and the farce more forced. Only Whoopi Goldberg as the show's writer seems to have sussed that the best way to play parody is straight, while the biggest unintentional laugh comes from TV producer and Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall's excruciating cameo as the network's daytime programming supremo. Not as funny as the real thing and unlikely to be anywhere near as successful as the leading real-life exponents of the art.