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MOVIE REVIEW

Looking for laughs? Good luck, 'Chuck'

Vulgarity can be funny if done right. But this Dane Cook vehicle is no 'Knocked Up' or 'Superbad.' Its humor drops off the low end.

September 21, 2007|Michael Phillips | Chicago Tribune

All the Two-Buck Chuck in the world won't make "Good Luck Chuck" go down any easier. The film is some sort of humor-deprivation experiment. For vulgarity spiced with wit and crassness done right, see "Superbad" or "Knocked Up." For a reminder that stridency gets you nowhere without certain other ingredients, "Good Luck Chuck" is this year's low-ender to beat.

In stand-up mode, Dane Cook rides a wave of adorable hostility; "Good Luck Chuck" packages him as more of a generic rom-com headliner. He plays Charlie, an affable and affluent dentist who horndogs around some but who cannot teach his heart how to luv. (Men!) The conceit of Josh Stolberg's script is simple: Every woman Charlie dates ends up marrying the next guy. His reputation as a marital good-luck charm ensured that the ladies beat a path to his door. The resulting one-night-stand montage runs 10 times longer, and with less wit, than the comparable sequence in "Wedding Crashers."

Early on, Charlie falls for Cam (Jessica Alba), the penguin-loving employee of a Sea World-type theme park. If they get together, will Ms. Nice automatically move on to Mr. Right? Heckling Charlie from the sidelines is his lifelong pal Stu (Dan Fogler), a cosmetic surgeon who ends up married to a woman with three breasts. (Stop, you're killing me.) In "Superbad," the all-theory, no-practice lech played by Jonah Hill had a way with words, no matter how nasty or outlandish. In "Good Luck Chuck," Stu, a similar character type, is somewhat more eerie than the filmmakers intended, an ogling bore who masturbates with grapefruits. I mean it: Stop, you're killing me.

Alba takes a few noisy pratfalls when they're not taken by her stunt double, but director Mark Helfrich, a feature film newbie, slams the slapstick so hard in terms of technique it's as if he were back working on one of the "Rush Hour" films. (He was an editor on all three.)

Without any directorial guidance, Alba, like Fogler and Cook, cannot transcend her material, let alone deliver a line such as "I may go to Antarctica for research!" without having it sound like "Check out these shoes I got at the mall!" All this, plus more condescending fat-broad gags than "Norbit." "Good Luck Chuck" wants us to root for Charlie and Cam, but that would require a rooting interest. With this script, Roto-Rooting's more like it.

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"Good Luck Chuck." MPAA rating: R for sequences of strong sexual content including crude dialogue, nudity, language and some drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. In general release.

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