I think sometimes I’m too optimistic. Take, for example, my decision to see Dude, Where’s My Car? Yes, I know what you’re thinking: it’s clearly just an updated version of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so how interesting or entertaining can it be? You’re right in thinking that. Still, for all its silliness and annoying speech patterns, Bill and Ted actually had some funny and, dare I say it, smart moments. The concept was inventive (the “two guys travel back in time and collect historical figures to help them pass their history report” part), the acting was cute, and the characters were generally likable. It wasn’t exactly navigating uncharted territory, but then, not every film has to be an Oscar contender to be enjoyable, right?
This was the attitude with which I approached Dude: I figured it would be a bit immature and more than a bit derivative (consider it the unofficial ripoff of and non-sequel to last summer’s sleeper, Road Trip), but I was ready to give myself over to my 13-year-old inner child. But it was no use: even at 13, I was too mature and intelligent to sit still for this film. It’s not enough to say that Dude is boring, totally unsophisticated, completely uninspired, and as predictable as George W. Bush’s “my belt buckle is bigger than your belt buckle” blank stare. It’s not even enough to say that this is among the worst films I have ever seen.
Insultingly simple-minded, Dude, Where’s My Car? wears its target demographic like a badge of honor. So, let’s run down the plot and see if we can’t nail down just who—or what—this demographic might be.
1. Two dudes, Jessie (That 70s Show‘s Aston Kutcher) and Chester (American Pie‘s Seann William Scott), wake up after a night of drugs and parties to find that they have misplaced their car. After exchanging “Dude, where’s my car?” and “Where’s your car, dude?” for several excruciating moments, the guys set out to retrace their steps, with the annoying complication of having total amnesia. So far, the movie seems to be aimed at STONERS.
2. Jessie and Chester’s main impetus for finding the car is that they’ve left in it their anniversary gifts for their twin sister girlfriends Wanda (Jennifer Garner) and Wilma (Marla Sokoloff), and they are hoping to get laid in exchange for their “sensitive guy” gifts. So, STRAIGHT STONERS.
3. While searching for the car, and the gifts, the dudes run into the aptly-named Christie Boner (Kristy Swanson), who kindly lets them fondle her breasts on a street corner and reminds Jessie that she saw the back seat of the car the night before. Let’s update to STRAIGHT STONERS WHO CHEAT ON THEIR GIRLFRIENDS.
4. As the search continues, they encounter various groups of people who are all looking for the “continuum transformer” that will save the world from destruction. Implausibly and inexplicably, Jessie and Chester were given this gadget during their now-famous blackout. The groups consist of two beefed-up “Nordic Dudes” from outer space; five latex-clad “hot babes” promising “erotic pleasure” in exchange for the transformer; and a cult of barn-dwelling, space-suited nerds looking to leave the planet. Of this ever-growing cast, the only non-white character to be found is Jessie and Chester’s asshole boss at the pizza place, Mr. Pizzacoli (John Toles-Bey). Now we’re up to STRAIGHT WHITE STONERS WHO CHEAT ON THEIR GIRLFRIENDS AND HAVE A PREDILECTION FOR SCI-FI.
5. Their search takes them to a strip joint, an ostrich farm, an impound lot, a Chinese drive-thru, a yogi’s backyard meditation garden, and finally a roller disco/mini-golf course. The fantastic conclusion to all of this takes the form of a “Super Hot Giant Alien” woman who not only threatens to destroy the world, but also doesn’t mind men looking up her dress. Aaaah, America. When Jessie and Chester predictably save the world from destruction, their reward is a pair of necklaces for their girlfriends, which have the magical power to make their breasts bigger. So, one more time: STRAIGHT, PERPETUALLY HORNY WHITE STONERS WHO CHEAT ON THEIR GIRLFRIENDS AND HAVE A PREDILECTION FOR SCI-FI, AS WELL AS UNRESOLVED BREAST ISSUES.
I think the many reasons for my utter disdain for this movie are obvious by now. To be fair, though, there is one compelling reason to go see this film while it’s in the theaters, which is to indulge in what has become my new favorite spectator sport: jock-watching. The audience at this film is bound to be more interesting than the film itself, and I found myself relishing the synchronized reactions of the thick-necked, Bud-drinkin’ guys (who were straight-up giddy at the repeated breast images and appalled at a gay kiss scene) and their mall-haired, chain-around-the-belly-wearin’ girlfriends (who were less than enthusiastically watching their boyfriends watch heroes screw around on and with their girlfriends). It was almost worth the price of admission to wonder which of the couples would be history by the time they made it to the parking lot.
It comes down to this: it’s pretty pathetic when you go to the $5 matinee and want $4 back at the end. And it’s downright shameful when you want back all $5, plus popcorn money, plus a few more bucks for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dude, Where’s My Car? is just irredeemably bad. It’s not smart, it’s not original, it’s not charming, and it’s certainly not funny. It’s another regurgitation of the lowest common denominator in youth-market films, presuming a brain-dead audience and big box office. And gauging by its first weekend, it just may get both.