The very existence of Larry the Cable Guy would seem like a pretty good argument against the concept of Intelligent Design. For that matter, I’d say it seriously calls into question whether the Piltdown skull really was a hoax.
The fact that Larry can find himself in a feature film is undeniably a testament to David Cross’ assertion about Larry’s popularity in Rolling Stone: “We’re in a stage of vague American values and anti-intellectual pride.” And if his film, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, should prove to be a hit, it will once again affirm the validity of the great H.L. Mencken’s statement, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”
Now, you may well wonder just why someone calling himself Larry the Cable Guy would be playing a health inspector instead of a, well … a cable guy. I’m sure I don’t know the answer, anymore than I have even an inkling as to why the phrase “Git’r done” is considered both funny and a viable life philosophy.
Prior to his big-screen debut, I’d been blessedly spared any exposure to Larry (proving that all good things come to an end), though I’d read enough about him to have some idea of what I was getting into in seeing Health Inspector. I am reliably told that he has legions of fans (at least one of whom will undoubtedly feel compelled to take issue with my assessment of him), though I’ve yet to meet one.
As a cultural phenomenon, Larry is certainly interesting, since his apparent popularity mirrors one of the wonders of our time: the ability to sell oneself as some kind of “just folks” good ol’ boy with dirt under the fingernails despite being a multi-millionaire.
In some ways, this isn’t new. Back in the 1930s, Bella and Samuel Spewack wrote a hit play, Boy Meets Girl, satirizing the movie industry, which included a cowboy star complaining to a pair of screenwriters that his fan-base is just as big as Clark Gable’s, but that a lot of people who go to his movies just never learned how to write. The screenwriters conclude that they’ve been “lacking in respect for the idol of illiteracy.”
However, Larry ups the ante considerably. This is no glorified mythical cowboy who kisses his horse in the last scene and wanders off into the sunset. This is a tobacco-chewing (one gag is predicated on his spit-cup being overturned), beer-chugging, chronically flatulent lout, prone to exposing a large expanse of what is commonly called “plumber’s ass,” whose level of sophisticated drollery can be measured by his refusal of an offer of sushi, “I’d rather dip French fries in my grandmother’s bed sores.” Now, if that strikes you as funny rather than sick-making, this is your movie. And welcome to it.
The premise of the film has this especially grotesque embodiment of the Americanus Napus Rosa and spokesman for the illiterati involved in a ridiculous plot that finds Larry as a health inspector investigating a series of food poisonings at posh restaurants involved in some kind of citywide competition for best eatery. This, of course, affords the proceedings more than ample opportunity for a veritable cacophony of “comic” intestinal distress.
Since it’s impossible to build an entire movie on flatluence, Larry has been saddled with an uptight sidekick, Amy (Iris Bahr), who doesn’t meet Larry’s standards of Hooter’s-styled femininity and so allows him ample scope to deliberately mistake her for a man. There’s also an uptight boss (Tom Wilson), whom Larry constantly chides as being gay. These little blasts of homophobia typically come from someone who couldn’t get picked up on Christopher Street on New Year’s Eve. It was ever thus.
For good measure, the film tosses in a guest appearance from Kid Rock and a totally mystifying one from Jerry Mathers (yes, the Jerry Mathers), who spends his entire bit looking pissed off and talking on a cell phone (probably firing his agent).
So how bad is it really? Well, it made me long for the days of that earlier ambassador of “down home” humor, Jim Varney, whose seemingly interminable series of films built around his Ernest P. Worrell character were at least good-natured, well-intended and solidly aimed at kids. In theory, Larry’s cinematic outburst is aimed at adults — a sobering thought. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke