American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
It has been a long time since I've found the characters in a comedy as sympathetic as they are in "Off Beat." So many recent American comedies seem to hate their heroes, to want to make fun of them, but here is a movie about sweet, likable people who get into a funny situation and watch it grow funnier the more they try to escape from it. "Off Beat" is a movie with a sharp edge and more than a little hostility, but the over-all feeling is sort of warm and romantic.
It's about this librarian named Joe (Judge Reinhold) who is going nowhere with his life. He puts on his roller skates and rolls back and forth in the stacks of the New York Public Library, feeding a conveyor belt with books for people he never sees. His promotion is blocked by the hateful Mr. Pepper (John Turturro), who is a Pee-Wee Herman clone.
His girlfriend has just left him and he spends his evenings drowning his sorrows, drinking with his best friend, a cop named Washington (Cleavant Derricks).
One day Joe screws up one of Washington's undercover assignments, and so he owes him one. And here is what Washington wants him to do: He has been assigned to audition for the dance line in a police department charity show, and he wants Joe to go to the audition for him. Joe protests, but it's no use, and that's how he gets into the peculiar position of impersonating a police office and a dancer, both at once.