A film review by Craig J. Koban
GOOD LUCK CHUCK
2007, R, 96 mins.
2007, R, 96 mins.
Charlie/Chuck: Dane Cook / Cam Wexler: Jessica Alba / Stu: Dan Fogler / Anisha: Michelle Harrison / Reba: Ellia English / Goth girl: Sasha Pieterse
Directed by Mark Helfrich / Written by Josh Stolberg / Based on a story by Steve Glenn
Geez...I have not been this depressed in a long time.
I canít recall - in all of my three and a half years as a film critic - being a victim of seeing such an abysmal streak of terrible films...all in the same three week period.
September started with the woefully incompetent action thriller WAR; then came the nauseatingly wretched SHOOT ĎEM UP (which is no where near as fun and entertaining as many other critics have stated); and then came THE BROTHERS SOLOMON, as intellectually bankrupt and void of genuine merriment as any recent screen comedy...except NORBIT, of course.
Now comes GOOD LUCK CHUCK, which its star, Dane Cook, has described in a recent interview as his comedy "baby". If that assertion has any truth, then I certainly hope that he does not become a literal father in real life, because I am highly dubious of his parental skills.
GOOD LUCK CHUCK is another 2007 comedic offering that is teeth gratingly bad, so wretched that it has received an almost unheard of 3% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.com. I usually donít take such collective review stats with anything but a grain of salt, but in this case I seem to be in absolute agreement with my other film critic colleagues. I think that the real problem with this film is that it tries to duplicate that delicate balance of raunch and sentimentality that the films of the Farrelly Brothers and Judd Apatow have successfully achieved. Most of the participants involved should have been forced at gunpoint to sit through a marathon session of those directorsí best comedies as a primer as to how to make their own work.
Three words: Mission not accomplished.
I have modest aspirations for a romantic comedy. Firstly, I need to like the two leads involved. On that level, GOOD LUCK CHUCK gets it half right. The female lead is played by Jessica Alba, who thoroughly inhabits in her character a clumsy and shy facade amidst some nicely underplayed sexuality. Whenever sheís on- screen the film is euphoric: Sheís just so unattainably cute and adorable here. I think that with all of the limited acting range she has displayed in previous films, Alba certainly has hopes for a strong career playing infectiously attractive love interests. She certainly bats a .1000 here.
The male lead does sit nearly as well. He is the before-mentioned Dane Cook, who plays his character in such a smug, camera mugging, and emotionally bipolar fashion that you're never quite sure whether or not you're supposed to like and root for this guy or wish that he never, eeeeever gets the girl of his dreams in the final act. At one time, his character is portrayed as an affable gentleman that wishes to not take advantage of women that he cares about. So, in this way, heís kind of noble and chivalrous. On the opposite end of the spectrum, his character takes one of the most dramatic 180 degree turns for any lead in any recent romantic comedy and transforms into a creepy stalker that has about as much charm and likeability as a serial killer. During this section of the film I was not sure if I was watching a comedy or a science fiction film.
Then there is the filmís laughably wrongheaded portrayal of women. GOOD LUCK CHUCKís smutty, T and A factor is huge (there is hardcore nudity and simulated sex aplenty here, oftentimes presented in several separate split screens; the film make set a record for most sex acts on screen at one time). Outside of Albaís role, all of the other women in this film are zombified super models that exist primarily as luscious sex objects. There is no attempt at solidifying anything actually approximating human beings here. Of course, this gives the film a pitiful excuse for having a lot of gorgeous window dressing, but none of the female personas feel plausible. They are more like sex addicted fiends. That, in small ways, is somewhat distasteful, if not a bit latently offensive.
The premise for the film could barely tread water in a 22 minute TV sitcom. The film at least has a somewhat cute opening which is set in the past (the 1980's to be precise). This prologue introduces us to Charlie (played as an adult later by Cook) and his buddy Stu (played as an adult later by the monumentally lecherous and annoying Stu Fogler). They play a game of spin the bottle with a bunch of cute adolescent girls. Unfortunately for "Chuck", he gets caught in a closet with a Goth queen that could pass for Marilyn Mansonís daughter. When Charlie repeatedly refuses to show this girl his mail appendage, she places a cruel hex on him. For the rest of his natural life, every woman that he sleeps with will fall in love with and marry the next dude she dates.
Charlie grows up and seems to shrug off the hex. He goes on to become a dentist (to be fair, Dane Cook makes the least plausible dentist ever) and has a successful practice. His buddy Stu - having such a unyielding sexual compulsion for breasts - became a plastic surgeon that performs implant surgeries (in one sly moment, he reveals that he has Pamela Andersonís first implants on display in his office, held up on the wall like a shrine). If anything is sacred, then there is no way that such a deviant and overbearing cretin like Stu should have ever been given a license to perform surgeries.
Anyhooí, Charlie soon grows to discover something peculiar: He is certainly getting a lot - and I mean a lot - of strange women approaching him asking for a night in the sack. Stu, being a loyal buddy, does a bit on online research and discovers that there is a wild rumor that his friend is the meal ticket for women to find the man of their dreams. Stu recommends that Charlie embrace his hexed destiny, which he does rather willfully (who wouldnít?). Letís just say that Chuck would have made Wilt Chamberlain proud.
A curve ball is then thrown at him. At a wedding of one of his past flames, Charlie meets the beautiful Cam (introduced in a obligatory slow motion montage, played by Alba). She works for a seaquarium and loves anything and everything to do with penguins (her apartment is a shrine to them). Apart from that, she is drop dead beautiful...and a spectacular klutz. Her predilection to inadvertently hurt those around her with her clumsiness would put Mr. Bean to shame. Some of these moments in the film generate some shocking laughs (as when she accidentally impales Charlie in the back with his dentistry scalpels), but these physical sight gags grow lame with time.
Despite her physical ineptitude, Charlie grows to love her. The two have a few dates, begrudgingly at first seeing as she does not want to be another notch on his bedpost. Charlie soon moves to the next level with his relationship, but it abruptly stops right before he hits a home run with her when he realizes that - gee whiz - if he sleeps with her, she will fall for the next guy in her life (why he just does not propose to her is beyond me). Of course, he abruptly stops making love to her and decides to take his hex to the ultimate test to ensure its reliability. He decides to ask out a chronically obese woman out on a date and have sex with her.
Sigh. Gross obesity is not funny. Itís a sickening physical disease that is about as hilarious as a STD. I hate it when comedies think that poking malicious fun at horribly fat people is uproariously funny. In the film the large woman (she looks to be about 400 pounds) is shown in a tight bikini, so tight that her pubic hair spills out. She is also covered in warts. Mocking people like this is sort of beyond unsavory, not to mention detestably desperate on the filmmakers part for a laugh. I find jokes at the expense of the obese as funny as seeing a white man in black face.
But wait, isnít GOOD LUCK CHUCK in the same mould as a Farrelly Brothers gross out comedy? Well...superficially...yes...but those two know that you have to balance grotesque spectacle with characters you sympathize with and like. They too made a film that involved a horrendously overweight woman (the underrated and misunderstood SHALLOW HAL), but they made her a flesh and blood character with feelings and emotional weight (no pun intended). The jokes were always with her, not at her. In GOOD LUCK CHUCK the fat woman is a despicable caricature that is portrayed as a salivating, food-loving monster. That's cruel.
My issues with GOOD LUCK CHUCK go beyond that. When Charlie realizes that he canít have sex with Cam because of the hex, he then inexplicably becomes a creepy stalker. He follows her wherever she goes so that she does not meet the next guy and hence fall for him and marry him. At one point Charlie becomes so overbearingly smothering that she rightfully tells him that she is "close to changing her number." Why was I the only one in the theatre applauding her at this moment?
Of course, she grows to understand and love Charlie, cuing the rekindling of their relationship and a pre-end-credit kiss. I never once believed that she could possibly love this jerk so much, even overlooking his chronically disturbing behaviour, which any other woman on the planet would have perceived as a threat worthy of a restraining order. Because of that, the film is a failure as a romantic comedy: I never invested enough in Cookís character to root for him, nor did I want Alba to wind up with this perv. The filmís attempts at sentimentality are flimsy at best and when itís not being syrupy with the material it tries to push the envelope with gross out gags that are more vile than funny. Question: isnít the thought on Stu masturbating into fresh produce more funny than actually seeing it?
GOOD LUCK CHUCK is a comedy that is bound to offend any taste; if you like your films containing backward, misogynist views of women, gratuitous nudity and sex, deplorable sight gags, overbearing characters, and a plot that is as one note as it gets, then this is the film for you. All others, there is nothing "good" about GOOD LUCK CHUCK. If anything, it makes one want to up-chuck. The film is dirty, needlessly foul, and is never once truly engaging and funny. Itís biggest sin is placing the undeniably ravishing and limitlessly appealing Alba in the middle of such dribble. She may not be a master thespian, but she certainly deserves better.