Legislation needs to be passed guaranteeing that any movie in which Dane Cook appears will find his character smacked in the face with a shovel and dumped into an open grave. Seriously, this was the most satisfying moment of his screen career when it occurred in Mr. Brooks earlier this year, and I’m sure that such a comeuppance would have improved Waiting (2005) and Employee of the Month (2006) to no end. In the case of Good Luck Chuck, it’s really the only acceptable fate I can think of that doesn’t require instruments of torture. I’m not real sure why I should eschew the idea of instruments of torture, since the film in question clearly is one. Maybe I’m just too humane for my own good.
I’ve never seen Mr. Cook’s stand-up routine. He may in fact be hysterically funny in that realm, but his film career and his screen presence make me want to curl up with a box set of Rob Schneider movies, or maybe even the Jon Heder “signature collection”—no, that goes too far. In all fairness, Cook is not the sole culprit in making Good Luck Chuck the year’s most regrettable “comedy.” No, no, no. Cook’s not even the worst thing about it; that would be Dan Fogler.
Who is this man? Yes, I know he won a Tony Award for something, but that’s no excuse for him being in two movies—this and Balls of Fury—in less than a month, or in fact ever. His comedic styling is grounded in confusing being loud with being funny. It’s much like horror films confusing loud with scary—except that Fogler is a lot scarier than any horror film I’ve recently encountered (and yes, I’m including this week’s Resident Evil: Extinction, which is a lot funnier than Good Luck Chuck). If the prospect of Fogler having marital relations with a grapefruit while inserting a vegetable brush up his backside doesn’t horrify you, you are beyond horror.
But hey, it’s unfair to let Messrs. Cook and Fogler have all the glory here. We also have to contend with Jessica Alba’s grave delusion that physical comedy is her forte, flaccid direction by first-time director Mark Helfrich and the incomprehensibly mean-spirited screenplay by Josh Stolberg. I say “incomprehensibly,” because Stolberg wrote and directed Kids in America (2005), one of the most sweet-natured and surprisingly deep teen comedies to come along in ages. Either his script here was seriously altered after the fact, or the box-office failure of Kids in America made him irritable, because Good Luck Chuck is leering, smarmy and hateful.
As you probably know—unless you saw the alternate “family friendly” trailer that made the film look like a comedy based entirely on Alba’s clumsiness—Good Luck Chuck is about a dentist named Charlie (Cook, who isn’t called Chuck in the movie) who has the peculiar problem of any girl he sleeps with dumping him and then immediately finding her true love. The curse dates back to when he was 10 years old and rejected a little Goth girl’s advances at a party, whereupon she put a hex on him. (Yes, the movie does take this seriously.) Convinced by his vile plastic-surgeon buddy Stu (Fogler), who performs breast jobs only, that this is a gift he should cash in on, Charlie starts bestowing his luck on women various and sundry. This aspect of the film is geared toward viewers who have never actually seen a naked woman except in two-dimensional representations, and it rewards that crowd with a goodly array of exposed flesh and sex scenes that verge on soft-core porn, while the film slowly makes its way to the plot.
The plot, of course, is that Charlie falls in love with pretty penguin keeper Cam (Alba), but if he sleeps with her … you get the idea. Of course, hilarity is supposed to ensue as Charlie avoids consummation and tries to break the curse. The movie’s idea of hilarity mostly consists of having Charlie sleep with an incredibly obese woman (Jodie Stewart), who is vile tempered, covered in acne and has table manners that would shame Charles Laughton’s Henry VIII. This is every bit as repellent and cruel as it sounds. OK, I admit the movie had one good laugh (involving a girl with “George W.” tattooed directly above her, er, shrubbery) and one truly human moment (involving the sad self-image of Charlie’s receptionist (Ellia English)), but that leaves us with about 94 minutes of brutal, mind-numbing tasteless tedium. Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content including crude dialogue, nudity, language and some drug use.