When Dana Carvey isn’t submerging himself inside a feisty satirical character (Garth, George Bush), he becomes an innocuous nobody-a clown without makeup. The folly of Clean Slate is that it compounds the rubbery blahness of Carvey’s personality. The movie is a kind of Groundhog Day in reverse-the hero, suffering from a rare form of amnesia, wakes up each morning with no memory of what has happened the day before-and though the idea sounds promising, the upshot is that for most of the picture we’re asked to identify with a complete blank.
Since Carvey, playing a hapless detective, has no knowledge of the underworld shenanigans in which he’s become enmeshed, the dialogue consists mostly of other characters elaborating huge chunks of plot. The effect is strangely akin to that of Last Action Hero: The convoluted ”intrigue” keeps unfolding, and we couldn’t give less of a damn. The film needed more scenes like the one in which Carvey, confronted by his kinky lover, dithers like a schoolboy as he tries to remember who’s supposed to handcuff whom to the bed. For a moment, we glimpse what the filmmakers had in mind-the story of someone in a constant, manic state of improvisation-but most of Clean Slate plays like a Peter Sellers farce with lead weights on its wings. D+