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Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo

Director: Mike Mitchell
Cast: Rob Schneider, William Forsythe, Eddie Griffin, Arija Bareikis

(Touchstone)

Makin' Copies

Rob Schneider is not a handsome man. Previously, his short stature and beady eyes have earned him supporting roles like the idiot Cajun or the creepy delivery guy in Adam Sandler vehicles, The Waterboy and Big Daddy. With Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, however, Schneider finally manages to thrust his unattractive mug into the spotlight. The result is a comic spoof that casts him as the anti-Richard Gere, an ill-suited suitor whose on-the-job training provides for a variety of awkward moments and a scarcity of genuine laughs.


As the title character, Schneider is a lonely, down and out aquarium cleaner whose fortunes change when he takes a job cleaning a Koi pond at an exclusive Malibu residence. There he meets Antoine Laconte, played by The Mummy‘s Oed Fehr, a Porsche-driving, model-smooching jet-setter who represents everything poor Deuce is not. The key to Antoine’s success? Two words: male prostitution. Forget about everything you learned from My Own Private Idaho. In this film, male prostitutes are all living the good life in Southern California. Deuce soon finds himself a part of this glamorous world, after Antoine asks him to housesit his oceanfront property and nurse his sick, expensive fish back to health. The rest of the picture is a kind of Home Alone-meets-Risky Business scenario in which Deuce promptly destroys Antoine’s house and has to take his place as a male prostitute to pay for the repairs.


The first reaction to seeing Rob Schneider listed as the lead in a major motion picture should be relief that Lorne Michaels’s name is nowhere to be found in the film’s credits. The history of Saturday Night Live sketches turned into films (with the notable exception of Wayne’s World) is a long and shameful one. From It’s Pat to the more recent A Night at the Roxbury and Mary Catherine Gallagher’s Superstar, Michaels and company have repeatedly proven that three good laughs in a ten minute sketch is much more enjoyable than the same comic content spread over an hour and a half. And yet, if we check our history, we see that Deuce is indeed in debt to the show that launched a thousand duds.


If the film’s premise sounds familiar, you might have seen Dan Akroyd as the Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute on Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s. Akroyd was the original Deuce, an out-of-shape gigolo who wouldn’t take no for an answer. The sketch was fresh, funny, and most importantly, fast. Schneider and company are betting that what was funny then will be funny now and they’re right (at least, it was funny for the original five minutes). That not even Lorne Michaels chose to produce a movie version of this sketch should say something about the limited comic potential of Deuce, the character.


On board with Schneider as an executive producer is fellow SNL alum Adam Sandler. Fans of Sandler’s {physical comedy} will certainly enjoy Deuce’s heavy dose of {the same}. In the first few minutes, the audience is treated to a decidedly unflattering view of Rob Schneider’s naked backside followed closely by an old woman falling down wet stairs. The film goes low for laughs in a strategy that paid off big for such gross-out comedies as There’s Something About Mary. As a result of this strategy, many of DMBG‘s characters seem designed solely to keep the film’s mind in the gutter. In a cameo, Norm McDonald plays a bartender whose inventive suggestions for a stirring spoon represent the kind of shock comedy that has, for better of worse, sold a good deal of tickets in recent years. McDonald’s bodily humor is also found in the role of Detective Chuck Fowler, played by the versatile William Forsythe, a vice cop who threatens Deuce at every turn, but who also can’t help asking Deuce for advise about the physical oddities of his genitalia.


The most intriguing aspect of DBMG is not its comedy at all, but its ideas about gender and sexuality. As a male prostitute, Deuce encounters a parallel universe where women, as paying clients, are supposed to hold the upper hand. His guide through this world is his “man-pimp,” T. J. Hicks (played with energy by Eddie Griffin), who introduces Deuce to the jargon of his new line of work. Deuce is variously a “man-whore,” “man-bitch,” even a “mangina,” and his clients are “she-Johns” (not Janes). This name-calling may seem to turn the tables for our man Deuce {by framing him as an abused sex slave, but these words do little more than reinforce their original meanings for women. In throwing a pronoun in front of a word like “bitch,” the film is asking us to laugh. When this vocabulary is coupled with the film’s deplorable treatment of Deuce’s “dates,” however, filmgoers might find themselves downright offended.


In this profession, Deuce is a joke because he’s a short, goofy, unshaven gigolo. Compared to his dates, though, he’s a regular Ricardo Montelban. Each of Deuce’s she-Johns suffers from some form of physical affliction. Whether the women are overweight, too tall, narcoleptic, or suffering from Tourettes syndrome, this film pokes fun at them. Not even the blind or amputees are spared DMBG‘s comic barbs. On one hand, the film’s take on women and the disabled is disturbing at best. On the other, going to a Rob Schneider/Adam Sandler comedy expecting relevant social commentary and political correctness is a bit like going to a Pauly Shore movie expecting to laugh. It’s just not gonna happen.


In the end, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is a comedy and, for that reason, is asking us to let it slide with its bathroom wall humor. In our haste to forgive, though, we run the risk of overlooking the film’s questionable treatments of women and the disabled. Even still, the biggest laughs aren’t’ found in the film’s jokes about fat chicks but occur when DBMG sticks to smarter comedy. After having his face anesthetized at a [hair clinic owned by his love interest Kate (played with energy and range by Arija Bareikis), Deuce expresses his heartfelt sentiments through a slobbering, swollen face in a hilarious scene that mocks the sugary sweet professions-of-love moments in romantic comedies.


Questionable in taste, funny in parts, the film depends too much upon an old joke that was funny twenty years ago in five minute stretches. It would seem that Schneider may never escape his Saturday Night Live past, still stuck in his SNL Xerox room and still, as his old character would put it, “makin’ copies.”

Rating:

Tobias Peterson served as PopMatters' Sport Editors and columnist (From the Cheap Seats). He holds an MA in English Literature (with a concentration in Cultural Studies) from George Mason University, where he studied representations of race in professional basketball.


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