While I was standing in line for Be Kind Rewind, a young fellow with a ball cap in the next line over spotted some acquaintances of his behind me and called out to them, “What’re you going to see?” “Larry the Cable Guy,” they responded. Making some indecipherable (to me) gesture of solidarity, he shouted back, “Hell, yeah!” Having been subjected to Mr. Cable Guy’s latest affront to the art of film, Witless Protection, the night before, I felt certain that two hours from that moment these same guys would be proclaiming the movie “funny as sh*t,” discussing Jenny McCarthy’s cup size (suggesting how they’d like to “git ‘r done”) and attempting to follow one of the film’s more educational moments by igniting their own gas. It’s heartening to see such traditional values being upheld and passed on thanks to Larry the Cable Guy.
Pandering to the lowest common denominator is nothing new. The movies have been doing that for as long there have been movies. These Larry the Cable Guy creations, however, are determined to actually lower the lowest common denominator—and encourage their target audience to take pride in willful ignorance and world-class gaucherie. After all, we all know that ignorance is preferable to education, stupidity trumps intelligence, basic social skills are a waste of time and believing something to be true clearly outweighs any actual knowledge on the subject. If this sounds suspiciously like the modus operandi of a certain world leader, that may go a long way toward explaining the cultural atmosphere in which a Larry the Cable Guy can flourish.
Having been subjected to all three Cable Guy outbursts of screen life (in none of which does our hero actually portray a cable guy), I have to say that Witless Protection is far and away the worst of the lot. Granted, this is a matter of relativity, on par with ranking the preferable nature of typhoid, yellow fever and a cholera epidemic, so as an observation it’s fairly worthless. But hey, so is Witless Protection.
This round we have Larry the Deputy Sheriff Guy, a gent with vague dreams of being an FBI agent, but who mostly just hangs out with his buddies. His friends specialize in not doing much of anything other than lighting their farts and his quasi-fiancée, Connie (Jenny McCarthy still milking that Playmate of the Year award for all it’s worth). All this changes when he mistakenly thinks some FBI agents—headed up by a properly embarrassed Yaphet Kotto—are kidnappers making off with a woman, Madeleine (Ivana Milicevic, Casino Royale). In reality, they’re taking her to testify against her former employer, Arthur Grimsley (Peter Stormare), but Larry “rescues” her anyway—and then comes to believe that the agents are “dirty.” Of course, he will turn out to be right, and he spends the rest of the movie mystifyingly outwitting the agents and other threats to save the day and prove that the only folks you can really trust are those with double-digit IQs and a raging contempt for the fundamentals of personal hygiene.
The plot, of course, scarcely matters. The whole movie is merely an excuse for the viewer to delight in the hilarity generated by Mr. Cable Guy breaking wind, vomiting, producing various gastric noises, rendering his foes unconscious with the stench of his feet and overpowering a roomful of Homeland Security agents with his lack of hygiene when they ill-advisedly attempt a body-cavity search on him. This is the state of comedy in the 21st century.
More frightening, though, is the idea that the character is actually admirable—because he’s presumably “good-hearted.” Well, yes, he’s “good-hearted” if you’re white, Southern, not liberal, uneducated and proud of it. Redemption, however, can be achieved as long as you realize that Larry the Boobus Americanus represents that which is best in us all. Personally, I’m satisfied to remain unredeemed. I look at Larry the Cable Guy and all I can think of is an old Peter Sellers line from his days on the radio’s The Goon Show: “I perceive, judging by your bearing, your manner and your dress, that you are an uncultured oaf.” This will undoubtedly get me pegged as a jaded elitist in some quarters. But I can live with that. Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor.