“Knocked Up” and “Superbad” have sparked renewed confidence in the idea of R-rated comedies, and they succeeded because they understood that you can get away with all the vulgarity you want as long as it’s also funny. “Good Luck Chuck” shows the wrong way to do it. It casts aside all ambitions for cleverness or wit and instead focuses just on being crass. There’s no fun in that unless you’re a 13-year-old boy.
The premise is that successful young dentist Charlie Logan (Dane Cook) is a good luck charm to women: If you sleep with him, the next guy you date will turn out to be your true love. Great for the ladies, bad for Charlie. He’s a steppingstone.
Once word gets out about his powers, Charlie becomes a hot property, with every woman in town wanting to sleep with him so that they can find their husbands. Most of these women are gorgeous, which delights Charlie (who reluctantly embraces his odd situation in a surprisingly graphic montage of sexual encounters) but which confuses me, since I wouldn’t think such beautiful women would have trouble finding dates, lovers, or husbands. I also wouldn’t have thought, in this day and age, that EVERY woman in America was THAT desperate to get married. Eh, what do I know?
Charlie’s problem arises when he meets Cam Wexler (Jessica Alba), a clumsy, unlucky lady who works with the penguins at the local oceanarium. He really likes her. Hence, he doesn’t want to sleep with her, because that means she’ll find her soul mate next — and it won’t be him.
Even given the absurdity of this fantasy-based premise, the film could have worked if it had followed any kind of internal logic. Instead, it’s a mess. Cam’s klutziness, which you expect will somehow counteract Charlie’s good-luck-charm status, proves irrelevant, nothing more than a cheap way to get easy laughs. (In Charlie’s car, she presses a button thinking it’s the heat, and it causes his convertible roof to fly off. Why would a car have a button that makes the roof fly off? Does it have an ejector seat, too?) After Charlie sleeps with Cam, he worries about her dumping him, which would open the door for her finding her soul mate. To prevent this, he overnight becomes clingy, obsessive, and paranoid, a genuinely psychotic stalker. This goes against everything we’d already been told about him, which was that he was non-committal, carefree, and laid-back.
Experienced film editor Mark Helfrich, making his debut as a director, mines the story for all the cliches he can find, right down to the scene where Charlie races through an airport to stop Cam from flying away. (Seriously, movie? An airport scene? Wow.) Groin injuries? Check. Old lady who swears? Of course. Slovenly and over-sexed best friend who gives the protagonist bad advice? Naturally.
Oh, and about that friend. His name is Stu, and he’s played by Dan Fogler. Now, Dan Fogler already proved his inability to be funny when he starred in “Balls of Fury” a few weeks ago. Turns out he’s no better in supporting roles. Here he plays a plastic surgeon who’s obsessed with breasts specifically and sex in general. He is perhaps the most repellant movie character I’ve seen all year: screechy, grating, creepy, and unamusing. He leers and salivates lecherously, like some kind of loathsome toad-man. His dialogue indicates that screenwriter Josh Stolberg’s thought process was this: “I know! I’ll take all the euphemisms for ‘semen’ that I can think of and put them in the movie!” Stu doesn’t deliver punchlines or make jokes; he just spouts tasteless, raunchy vulgarisms. A movie can be dirty and funny, but this one has chosen just to be dirty.
And yet that character isn’t entirely why the film doesn’t work. I’m gonna have to lay most of that blame at the feet of Dane Cook. Cook was a funny comedian when he came on the scene several years ago. Then he became more of a rock star than a comic, started to believe his own hype, and got lazy. He is not an actor. His character is supposed to be funny, yet most of his witty remarks are sitcom-lame, and he tends to cap them off by smiling in a smug, aren’t-I-funny? kind of way. Also, despite all the nudity in the film, Jessica Alba remains clothed. I suspect this will anger and frustrate most of the target demographic. It certainly hides her strongest talents as an actress.
D+ (1 hr., 33 min.; )