My Best Friend’s Girl

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You know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of romantic comedies about people who have special, magical relationship “skills” that they use to make money. You had “Hitch,” where Will Smith knew everything about women and could sell you his expertise. Then “Failure to Launch” had Sarah Jessica Parker being hired by exasperated parents to date their loser sons, boost their self-esteem, and get them out of the house. And just last fall there was Dane Cook as “Good Luck Chuck,” whom women would sleep with because they knew it would lead them to their soulmates. These movies aren’t all bad, but their cutesy premises have created a new cliché in a genre that already had plenty of them.

The latest is another Dane Cook offering, “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and it’s a misguided blend of frat-boy raunchiness (which is why they hired Cook) and the usual rom-com tropes (which is why they hired Kate Hudson as his co-star). Yes, chick-flick fans, all your favorite plot points are here — meeting under false pretenses, feeling betrayed when the truth comes out, declaring your love in the rain, and reconciling in a highly public place — but they’re mixed with testicle jokes and vomiting!

Cook plays Tank Turner, a first-class douchebag who, like Cook himself, takes pride in his douchebagginess. When he wants to sleep with a woman, he just treats her like dirt. Of course, this only attracts the type of women who enjoy being treated like dirt, but I guess everyone has a specialty. In his spare time, Tank accepts money from love-struck guys who want him to date their ex-girlfriends, show the women a miserable time, and drive them back into the arms of the guys they dumped. There is a certain logic to it: If you want a girl to think you’re terrific by comparison, set her up with Tank Turner.

Tank’s special skill (i.e., being a jerk) comes into play when his best friend and roommate, Dustin (Jason Biggs), is spurned by Alexis (Kate Hudson), a co-worker he’s been casually dating who has just put him into the Friend Zone. Tank arranges to meet Alexis (without her knowing he’s connected to Dustin, of course), take her out, and be an a-hole; the problem is, they hit it off and fall for each other.

Oh no! He was hired to mistreat a woman, but they wind up sleeping together! The plan is backfiring! Now Tank is dating Dustin’s girl behind his back!

This is a film in which idiots do dumb, manipulative, deceitful things to one another, and then wonder why their lives are so screwed up. Then, outrageously, the movie turns dramatic and wants us to care about these morons and their romantic woes. Written by first-timer Jordan Cahan, the film was directed by Howard Deutch (Douche?), who made “Pretty in Pink” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” and went downhill from there. His efforts to combine the R-rated comedy elements with the Nora Ephron rom-com elements are unsuccessful, to put it mildly.

There are two potentially saving graces. Alec Baldwin has a few scenes as Tank’s father, a women’s studies professor who taught Tank everything he knows about womanizing and lechery, and if there’s a movie that can’t be improved by the presence of Alec Baldwin, I haven’t seen it. The other bright spot is Lizzy Caplan (the alterna-chick from “Mean Girls”), who plays Alexis’ promiscuous, unemployed roommate. That character type (she should be a lush, too) is fast becoming another rom-com cliché, but it still has some usefulness, and Caplan has the right snarky attitude.

Meanwhile, Cook, Biggs, and Hudson all do what they’ve generally done in other films; I guess the novelty here, if there is one, is seeing them do it together. (Who would have thought Dane Cook and Kate Hudson could be a plausible romantic couple? And whoever did think that, how does it feel to be so wrong?) But the movie is mirthlessly vulgar, with only a few scattered laughs escaping from the miasma of desperation.

D+ (1 hr., 41 min.; R, pervasive harsh profanity, abundant vulgar dialogue, some nudity, some strong sexuality.)

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