By Ralph Novak
September 11, 1989 12:00 PM

Michael Chiklis, Patti D’Arbanville

John Belushi so thoroughly trashed his own life and talent it would seem impossible to insult his memory. Never underestimate Hollywood’s ability to insult.

This film had trouble finding a distributor, reportedly because the script was too honest and uncompromising in exposing the show business drug culture. (The movie was released by an obscure new company, Taurus Entertainment.) In fact, the script is imbecilic and it compromises in a let’s-be-fair-about-this fashion, partially blaming Belushi’s character weaknesses and partially blaming show business excess for his drug-overdose death in 1982.

Director Larry (Goodbye, Columbus) Peerce adapted the book by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, who is described in the film’s press material as having “aided the filmmaker’s efforts in bringing his book Wired to the screen.” So, Bob, now that you’ve collaborated in a project that features Belushi’s ghost and been shown hallucinating that you were present during Belushi’s death, when will you be joining the Star?

The script, by Earl Mac (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai) Rauch, uses a flashback-and-forth technique. Belushi, vehemently overacted (and fairly well impersonated) by newcomer Chiklis, 25, dies as the film opens and keeps showing up to observe scenes in his life, accompanied by an otherworldly Puerto Rican cab driver named Angel, played by Ray Sharkey. Gary Groomes is Dan Aykroyd, who’s depicted as a sanctimonious no-talent. J.T. Walsh plays Woodward with an accent on the “wood,” and D’Arbanville, the only person involved who has any reason to put this film on her résumé, is soberingly matter-of-fact as Cathy Smith, the Canadian junkie who gave Belushi the dose of heroin and cocaine that killed him.

Rauch belabors scenes involving the Blues Brothers, so Chiklis and Groomes have to keep doing their poor imitation of what was a wretched rip-off in the first place. The reenacted Saturday Night Live routines that made Belushi a star seem grim. For all his histrionics, Chiklis never hits anything like the manic vigor Belushi generated as a performer.

The best that can be said for this movie is that, in ignoring literal reality, it tries to do for Belushi what Lenny did for Lenny Bruce. But that film had Bob Fosse, Dustin Hoffman and a script by playwright Julian Barry; this one doesn’t. (R)