Good Luck Chuck

2007-09-21 (General release)

My favorite films of all time have great heart. You want to make movies that are going to be on people’s DVD shelf in 10 years, and that’s what I hope this is. It’s a hardcore comedy. People are going to get tons of funny. But they’re not going to expect the amount of depth that some of these relationships and characters have. I think that’s what make this a cinematic adventure.

Dane Cook

Who are these people? It’s hard to look at the cavorting and cruelty in Good Luck Chuck and not wonder whether you’ve dropped into an alternate universe. That’s not to say that there aren’t a hundred other recent instances of what Alicia Rebensdorf has termed “The Entertainment Industry’s Love Affair with Immature Men.” But the foolishness on display here makes you want to swear off so-called romantic comedies altogether.

First, Dane Cook. As Charlie, a dentist who may or may not have been cursed by a gothy girl when he was 10, he’s hardly the charming cad/romantic lead the plot proposes. Instead, he’s pretty much the Dane Cook character, self-interested and judgmental. The curse has it that Charlie is condemned to singledom, and more elaborately, that every woman he sleeps with will marry the next man she dates. (Call it the dream come true for those guys in Wedding Crashers, a movie from which this one borrows liberally.) For no reason the movie explains, the curse only comes to Charlie’s attention when he’s into his 30s and, at the wedding of one such “ex,” encounters the girl of his dreams, Cam (Jessica Alba). As he’s being eyed by a couple of cleavagey tablemates, Cam walks toward him in slow motion, accompanied by standard-issue romance music. The shot suggests his distraction and also sets up the scene’s not-so-boffo exclamation point. She walks into a waiter and so has drinks spilled all over her. As he leaps up to help, he’s summarily entangled in the ongoing liquids-spilling slapstick, she pats at his crotch with a napkin, and oh ho ho.

Embarrassed he may be, but Charlie decides pretty much right then that Cam is the one. His desire is complicated by some hijinksy details. While she is Jessica Alba, she’s also something of a klutz, which occasions a seemingly endless series of pratfalls. She is also, very tediously, obsessed with penguins. Most obviously, this aligns her with the Adam Sandler of 50 First Dates (another movie from which this one lifts material), in that she works at Aqua World, and is so very attached to her adorable charges. More broadly, this officially marks the end of penguins as adorable. Not only do she and then Charlie have to fall into the penguin pool (the penguins bite him in the crotch), but it also leads pretty directly to the film’s closing credits “porn tape,” where Cook/Charlie goes down on one of Kam’s stuffed penguins. In a word, yucky.

Still, the penguins have it easy compared to grapefruits, repeatedly used here as masturbatory tools by Charlie’s lifelong best friend, the plastic surgeon Stu (Dan Fogle). Aside from delivering repeated outbursts concerning the importance of “trim” and “tits,” Stu persuades Charlie to take advantage of his reputation as a lucky charm for women looking to get hitched. Though Charlie’s own reasoning is never entirely clear (he’s set up as the decent guy, who goes along with Stu’s encouragement because, well, because…), he spends long montagey and multi-split-screen minutes bedding all manner of women with breasts exposed, including his own receptionist, Reba (Ellia English), the always-hilarious desperate-for-sex big-bodied black woman. It’s one thing when Mo’Nique complicates this character. It’s quite another when Dane Cook consoles her.

Charlie’s escapades soon leave him feeling unfilled, and he comes to realize that Cam, who has rejected him precisely because she’s heard he sleeps around. Cue plinky piano music, as he finally convinces her to date him. Following a brief series of eating-ice-cream-and-laughing-joyfully shots — and an apparently perfect night in bed — the film launches into yet another stage, which has Charlie desperate to keep Cam from dating the next guy, whoever he is, for fear that she’ll marry him.

Charlie’s efforts to keep her contained involve him sending flowers and balloons and finally showing up at Aqua World in a box, from which he emerges dressed as a giant, completely unadorable penguin. She commands him to leave, figures he’s crazy, and tries to get on with her life, this with the help of her pothead brother (Lonny Ross), who also works at the aquarium. You might imagine his advice is less than estimable, but no. Good Luck Chuck actually makes him seem sensible — or at least generically romantic — compared to his increasingly peculiar sister.

Cam’s innocuous strangeness (her love for the penguins being the key sign) may make her the ideal object for Charlie, who is abnormal in less cuddly and even menacing ways (his efforts to keep an eye on her amount to stalking). But the contortions of their relationship take far too long and too many scenes with Stu with his penis near a grapefruit to be resolved.

RATING 1 / 10