September 27, 2007

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Good Luck Chuck (R)
Judd Apatow makes the raunchy romantic comedy look easy while the gang that assembled the lurching Good Luck Chuck demonstrates why the genre is so very harder to get right.

Charlie (Dane Cook) is always with the bridesmaid, never marrying the bride — which by movie logic is totally cool because dudes don’t want to get married. Or even, really, like girls, except, you know, for meaningless sex. This mindset is personified by Stu (Dan Fogler), Charlie’s sleazy plastic surgeon friend. He’s jealous but appropriately delighted for his friend when the men find out that Charlie is considered by the women of his town to be a good luck charm. It seems that after a night with him, these ladies go on to find love, happiness and a future of marital bliss — with someone else. Charlie is at first intrigued by the possibilities of this — every woman wants to date him but none wants to entrap him. In fact, none want to even second-date him.

(This state perhaps stems from an incident early in Charlie’s tweens when a goth girl he spurned puts a hex on him — love will fall like rain around him but he will never be loved himself, she says — a scene which, come to think of it, potentially makes her the movie’s only interesting character.)

But then Charlie, who, we are told, weighs in on the morality scale slightly higher than Stu, starts to see the downside of his status. Despite all his company, he’s really quite lonely. And then there’s the thought that should he ever find The One, his rabbit’s-foot-like status will mean he’ll lose her in the end.

This prospect is particularly terrifying once he meets Cam (Jessica Alba). She cares for the penguin habitat at the local aquarium. She’s lovely and funny and made just human enough by her enormous klutziness. Isn’t it charming how she locks herself out of her car? Isn’t it hilarious how her skirt catches in the car door and leaves her inching away from Charlie in only her skivvies? Isn’t it wacky how she is always falling down?

No.

I’d accuse this movie of a particularly mean misogynistic outlook (women must either be bitchy or helpless) but I don’t think this movie is smart enough to have that much subtext. It barely has text. It is torturously slow at teaching its “maybe there’s more to relationships than just meaningless sex with interchangeable, personality-free underwear-model-like women” lesson. The pacing has less grace than Alba’s character, falling into gross-out humor (Charlie has to test his theory by sleeping with a hugely fat, thoroughly disgusting woman) and irritating hijinks (Charlie tries to keep Cam from falling in love with anyone else by, among other things, showing up at her office in a giant penguin costume). Cook needs to put in a couple of years on a single-camera, laugh-track-free TV comedy to learn how to be funny without mugging.

Good Luck Chuck and movies of this ilk have good reason to be angry at Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and their gang of writers and actors who have proven you can be crude and sweet, joke about boobies and say something meaningful about love. Knowing that this is possible, it’s hard to sit through the Good Luck Chucks of the world without feeling like the movie’s cruelest joke is on the people who buy tickets to them. D

Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content (which kind of make you feel dirty) including crude dialogue, nudity, language and some drug use. Directed by Mark Helfrich and written by Josh Stolberg (from a story by Steve Glenn), Good Luck Chuck (which, if you think about it, is sort of the message from the studio to you, the unfortunate ticket-buyer) is an hour and 36 minutes long (though, I assure you, it feels so much longer) and is distributed in senselessly wide release by Lionsgate.