Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo

The commercials for “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” do the film a serious injustice, making it look shallow and stupid when it’s actually fairly sweet, not awfully crude, and with more of a message than you’d think.

The plot is explained in the ads only slightly faster than it unspools in the movie: Deuce (Rob Schneider), a hapless aquarium cleaner, is asked by his gigolo acquaintance Antoine (Oded Fehr) to watch his luxury condo and take care of his expensive fish for a few weeks. Deuce accidentally destroys the place and has to come up with $6,000 to fix it all before Antoine comes back. How to make that kind of money that fast? Take over Antoine’s gigolo jobs, of course.

We’re then treated to several scenes in which Deuce meets women whose odd personality and physical traits are meant to be funny. One’s freakishly tall, one’s obese, one has Tourrette’s Syndrome, one has narcolepsy — you get the idea.

The twist is that, while the commercials make us think that’s going to be the thrust of the film — “Hey, look at this schlub who wants to be a gigolo and has to have sex with these comically nasty women!” — the film’s point ACTUALLY turns out to be that these women really just need someone to pay attention to them. They need a boost to their self-esteem. Deuce never has sex with any of them.

And that’s where the movie succeeds. Despite being produced by Adam Sandler, who frankly shouldn’t be permitted to produce carbon dioxide, let alone a movie, “Deuce Bigalow” actually has heart. Someone realized that Schneider cannot carry a film by himself, and so he’s given a very likable, nice character who honestly just wants to help these women feel better about themselves.

In other words, while movies like this tend to rely on the merits of the lead actor to provide the humor — meaning that if you hate the actor, you’ll hate the movie — “Deuce Bigalow” relies on the supporting cast to provide the humor, and Schneider to provide the likability.

There’s a fantastic “Matrix” reference thrown in purely for the fun of it, and the requisite potty humor. But not a lot of it, actually. There’s also far less sexual innuendo than you’d think, considering the film’s subject matter.

But, again, that’s just it: The movie isn’t really ABOUT sex. It’s about finding something attractive about everyone.

This is no classic, by any means, and I don’t mean to make it sound like more than it is. But it’s a funny, good-natured film that doesn’t just go for “sweetness” because it’s supposed to; it actually means it.

B (; R, sexual content, language and crude humor.)