Monday, May 23, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #53: Good Luck Chuck

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more information about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Dane Cook: the Karate of stand-up comedians?

In the mid aughts, Dane Cook exploded. I remember seeing his 2000 Comedy Central Presents special and loving it, though keep in mind that at the time I was a thirteen-year-old boy. I remember waking up one morning only to discover that seemingly everybody loved Dane Cook. Even people who never listened to stand-up seemed to worship the guy, in fact, only people who never listened to stand-up seemed to worship the guy. He has a sort of sometimes spasmatic, usually smarmy, and always assholish quality to his onstage persona, which of course made him the preferred comic of smarmy assholes everywhere.

Cook was a definite crossover success, the Next Big Thing, the new stand-up who was going to become a big mainstream comedy star. So of course when he began selling multi-platinum albums and selling out shows at Madison Square Garden, he was given a series of movie deals, one of which stands before you and I today: Good Luck Chuck.

Despite my aversion to Dane Cook's brand of comedy (I've always preferred my comedians in the "comic as disturbed outsider" mode as opposed to the "comic as rockstar" mode), I was determined to give Chuck an honest shake. What was beyond strange though was that my biggest problems with the film had little to do with Cook's performance. Baffling, I know!

Good Luck Chuck is a romantic comedy following one of the most widely prescribed formulas churned out by the American studio system: take one popular comedian as your leading man (Cook), pair him with America's Sweetheart (Jessica Alba), add some sort of magical high concept to complicate their relationship (Cook's Charlie is cursed by a goth girl after a botched round of Seven Minutes In Heaven and now causes any woman to immediately meet the love of their life after they sleep with him), shake, serve to general audiences, kick good filmmaking in the balls, repeat. This has been done again and again over the past decade or so, of course.

The sheer paint-by-numbers asshatery of this movie and its kin was painful. In every scene I could see in my mind's eye the meeting room of studio executives sewing the film together, the committees of screenwriters piling on terrible jokes, the test audiences telling pollsters that they wanted more penguins or sex scenes (or sex scenes involving penguins). Therefore saying that Dane Cook's asshole qualities were the least of the film's problems is not high praise.

Cook actually dials back his cocky Dane Cook persona a tad in the film, but I still hated him. Charlie is meant to be an ok, not Dane Cook-like guy. But this is somewhat undercut by the fact that Charlie scores with loads of hotties throughout the movie (his words, not mine) and with an actor like Cook in the role, the fact that they're fucking him only so that their next boyfriend ends up as the man of their dreams seems less absurd and funny. I can honestly believe that a guy like Dane Cook could bed hundreds of women, because dumb bimbos tend to like to like Dane Cook. But could you imagine what would happen if someone less appealing to blonds with huge fake tits was cast in this movie, maybe someone less cocky and handsome? It's like my theory that Tom Hanks should have played Arnold's role in Total Recall.

Speaking of people who aren't Dane Cook, the people who aren't Dane Cook in this movie also suck. Jessica Alba plays a pretty zookeeper who Cook falls in love with for real (not just for the sex!) and she's meant to be show as down-to-Earth and charming by falling down a lot. If there is one thing Jessica Alba cannot and should not attempt, it's slapstick. Dan Fogler, aka that guy who keeps getting forced on audiences as the Fat Best Friend stock character, is in this. Would you believe he's a fat guy who loves to party as in obsessed with tits?

The abyssmality of Good Luck Chuck can't really be summed up any better than by spoiling it's ending: Dane Cook falls in love with Jessica Alba but doesn't want to drive her away with his curse and so he learns a lesson and Alba ends up back with him in the end and they live happily ever after. It's every romcom you've ever seen. But with Dane Cook.

Good Luck Chuck is ranked #61 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.