This modernization of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac casts Steve Martin as C. D. Bates, the fearless, quick-witted fire chief of a Washington State resort town. Bates' most trusted fireman is the handsome but tongue-tied Chris McDonell (Rick Rossovich).
Both men are in love with the beautiful Roxanne Kowalski (Darryl Hannah), but Bates, adorned with a huge nose that makes Bob Hope look like Nanette Fabray, is convinced that he's too homely to win Roxanne's heart.
Thus, in the self-sacrificing tradition of Cyrano de Bergerac, Bates courts Roxanne vicariously by feeding his rival Chris the proper romantic words and phrases. The inherent pathos in Roxanne is offset by moments of slapstick, notably the scene wherein C. D. Bates vanquishes a pair of hooligans with a tennis racket.
Steve Martin himself is credited with the screenplay for Roxanne, though he generously cites Edmond Rostand as his inspiration.