Mark Reviews Movies

GOOD LUCK CHUCK

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Mark Helfrich

Cast: Dane Cook, Jessica Alba, Dan Fogler, Lonny Ross, Ellia English

MPAA Rating: R (for sequences of strong sexual content including crude dialogue, nudity, language and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:36

Release Date: 9/21/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Here's the central problem with Dane Cook's two attempts as a leading man: He doesn't have a persona.  In his standup, he's a funny guy (I will catch some major flak from a few of my colleagues for this statement), but give him a major comic role and he's lost amidst the crowd, drifting in a movie that has no clue how to use him.  He's not a bad actor.  He was frighteningly convincing as a seemingly regular Joe with a wicked dark streak in Mr. Brooks, and he's not without charm in Good Luck Chuck or his previous lead outing, the similarly ill-fated Employee of the Month.  He's just not funny within the structure of a formula comedy, because the backbone of his humor is so impulsive.  I give him credit for not play-acting his way through material like this, attempting to force laughs that aren't there and wrecking potential laughs that are, but he's too common, too whitewashed.  It certainly doesn't help that a movie like Good Luck Chuck is out-and-out bad.  Tired and uninspired, the movie has no clue how to draw out its sitcom setup and relies entirely on weak pratfalls and schmaltz that's so sappy it provides the bulk of the laughs.

In 1985, young Charlie (Connor Price) is at a party, where the kids are gathered around playing a combination of spin the bottle and seven minutes in heaven.  His friend young Stu (Troy Gentile) goes over the basics of the bases, a walk (a kiss on the cheek), and an in-the-park homerun (use your imagination).  Charlie really wants to be stuck in the closet with a certain young girl, but he's stuck with a Goth girl (Sasha Pieterse), who puts a hex on Charlie after he refuses to give into her rough concept of foreplay.  The humor ends about here, and in the present day, Charlie (Cook) is a dentist, Stu (Dan Fogler) is a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast implants (and wasn't so annoying when he was young and naïve), and they're both on their way to the wedding of one of Charlie's ex-girlfriends.  There Charlie meets Cam (Jessica Alba), a perpetual klutz and penguin fanatic, and is the subject of the bride's toast.  She says he was her good luck charm.  The rumor spreads, and soon, Charlie's office is flooded with women who believe that after they sleep with him they will meet their soul mate.

The problem, of course, is that Charlie is looking for his own soul mate, and Josh Stolberg's script hits home the point that he's just a lonesome guy, desperately looking for love and never finding it.  He's never told a woman he loves her, he confides to Stu, because he doesn't want to say the words without meaning them.  He wants something meaningful, he tells his friend, who instantaneously responds with questions of Charlie's sexuality (really, Stu was much funnier—and so is the movie—when the two friends were innocent pre-adolescents unsure of the workings of human sexuality).  Charlie wants Cam.  Cam chips a tooth in a painfully Rube Goldberg-like accident involving a tossed fish, a hungry penguin, and an icy slope.  Cam says she's emotionally unavailable and repeatedly and inadvertently injures Charlie by sending dental tools flying into his back, shocking him by starting her car when he tries to jump it, and wrecking his convertible top.  Stolberg clearly loves injuring his characters and wrecking their furniture, because there's nary a scene in which one of the two doesn't happen.  It's amusing maybe the first two times but gets old quickly once you realize it's the primary joke in the movie's limited arsenal.

Charlie's character arc becomes more problematic than the one-note humor.  He starts a likeable enough loser-in-love, and then, unwisely and in a move completely out of character, he begins to take Stu's misguided advice.  Stu's view on women believing in the curse is that Charlie can help them.  It's a social service, sleeping with countless women so they can find their one, true love, which we see in an extended montage that goes on long enough to befit discomfort.  It should be noted that we see Stu doing unnatural things to a grapefruit (Another "Thanks, movie" moment comes when we see a penguin eat its own feces).  This is the kind of person from whom one should never take advice.  When Charlie finally gives in to a relationship with Cam, he decides to go overboard on the wooing, stifling her with presents and uncalled-for appearances at her work (accompanied by a barbershop quartet that sings a song entirely unbecoming to barbershop and is hence kind of funny).  He essentially becomes a stalker, and while Stolberg apparently hopes we'll sympathize with his anxiety of losing Cam, Charlie's actions before and during this overbearing phase defeat those underlying concerns.  He becomes so creepy, in fact, it's impossible to believe the happy ending forced upon him.

Also shoved into the story are moments of gooey sentimentality (complete with mushy music cues) that work toward their purpose even worse than the comedy, but at least these moments are funny—unintentionally, yes, but still funny.  Good Luck Chuck doesn't bode well for Cook's movie career, and it's just another in a line of feature comedies that wouldn't cut it even as television sitcoms.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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