Good Luck Chuck (United States, 2007)
A film like Good Luck Chuck makes one appreciate what Judd Apatow has accomplished with his films The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. All three pictures belong to the "raunchy romantic comedy" genre, but Apatow has achieved something impressive: deliver hilarious, profane comedy and develop tender relationships between likable characters. Good Luck Chuck could use a little of the "Apatow touch." The movie is coarse and features a romance, but the laughs are sporadic at best and there's no spark between the male and female leads. To make matters worse, the premise is rich with possibilities, but the script takes the safe route at every fork in the road, leaving all the most interesting (and potentially side-splitting) roads untraveled.
Good Luck Chuck begins in the '80s. We know this as much by the background music as by the caption that informs us of this. The prologue tells how, as an adolescent, Charlie (who would grow up to be Dane Cook), refuses to show his penis to the goth girl with whom he ends up in the closet during Spin the Bottle. In response to his sexual reluctance, she places a hex on him. For the rest of his life, every girl Charlie sleeps with will fall in love and marry the next guy after him. Over the years, this seems to play out. As word spreads about the curse, Charlie has a lot of dates, but no true romance. Women want him so they can find a life partner in whoever follows him into their lives. Then, one day, Charlie falls head-over-heels for the accident-prone Cam (Jessica Alba), a penguin keeper at a local marine park. But when it comes time to do the deed, Charlie recognizes the horrible truth: if he has sex with Cam, he will lose her.
The script for Good Luck Chuck, credited to Josh Stolberg, is neither sharp nor witty. The film does, however, deliver some solid laughs, usually as a result of crude behavior. (More than one of these laughs will be accompanied by loud groans.) The dialogue, however, is bland, and the situations are formulaic and predictable. Plus, we get cheated out of seeing the woman with three breasts. (Sort of - that's one of the benefits of staying through the end credits.)
In the past, I have criticized Jessica Alba's acting ability. It turns out that, given the right role, she can be adorable. Cam is within Alba's limited range, and she pulls off the part with the right mix of kittenish sexiness and utter clumsiness. The pratfalls aren't amusing but they add a certain level of vulnerability to the character. Dane Cook, however, comes across like a creep. Charlie is supposed to be a chivalrous sort of guy who doesn't want to take advantage of all the women who come flocking to him, but Cook makes us think of Joe Francis, the king of the Girls Gone Wild empire. There's something disturbing and unappealing about the way Cook plays this role. He exhibits no chemistry with Alba; we end up hoping Cam will end up with someone who doesn't leer as much. Further exacerbating things is Dan Fogler, who plays Charlie's best friend, plastic surgeon Stu. This is one of those annoying-as-hell supporting performances. Fogler could best be described as a cross between Gilbert Gottfried and Rob Schneider.
The director is first-timer Mark Helfrich, a film editor who has graduated to the next level. As is often the case in hit-and-miss comedies, the timing is off on too many of the jokes, which is why they aren't funny. This is almost always the director's fault. Plus, he has Cam walk into a few too many objects. That sort of thing might work once or twice but overuse makes it tiresome. Good Luck Chuck doesn't shy away from nudity, except where Alba is concerned. There's plenty of naked flesh in an early montage during which Charlie starts exploring the benefits of being cursed. If Apatow is spoiling us, there are always movies like Good Luck Chuck to bring us back to the reality of the situation: most filmmakers in Hollywood are lazy. They would rather spit out formulaic stuff spiced up with a little sex and nudity than take the effort to make something that works on multiple levels. There are some great ideas in Good Luck Chuck. One would think the concept of a man not being able to have sex with his true love would open a vast ocean of comedic and dramatic possibilities. Yet the final screenplay is as devoid of real emotion as it is of real characters. At least Jessica Alba's legion of fans will have something to smile about. If nothing else, Helfrich has shown her in the best light. If only there was something worth seeing here other than her.
Good Luck Chuck (United States, 2007)
Cast: Dane Cook, Jessica Alba, Dan Fogler, Ellia English
Screenplay: Josh Stolberg, based on the short story by Steve Glenn
Cinematography: Anthony B. Richmond
Music: Aaron Zigman
U.S. Distributor: Lionsgate
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