Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star - 2011

"Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star" - 2011
Dir. by Tom Brady - 1 hr. 37 min.

Official Red Band Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

You and I both know going in that "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star" is not going to be a "good" movie.  From the trailer, premise, and talent involved, there's nothing that suggests a surprisingly good comedy is even possible.  And I'm not going to suggest otherwise.  But once you've appropriately set the bar for your expectations (and un-clenched your anus, and accept that low-brow humor will forever be funny), this movie does clear that bar by an inch or two.

Bucky Larson (Nick Swardson) is a golly-gee Iowan, whose parents just happen to be porn stars from the 1970's.  Since Bucky has been fired from his grocery-bagging job, the discovery of this previously unknown fact about his parents gives him some direction: he's headed to Hollywood to act in "nude movies."  Once there, he befriends Kathy (Christina Ricci), a waitress who's slumming in a greasy spoon.  After a few failed attempts to make inroad in the nude movie industry, down-on-his-luck direction Miles Deep (Don Johnson) decides to give him a chance.  The resulting clip goes viral, launching Bucky into success.

So...  I laughed quite a few times.  The real problem that I have with this movie isn't the faux-naughty premise ("Orgazmo" did a different take on the same sort of situation), and it isn't with any of the people involved (I do like Swardson's stand-up).  My real problem with this movie is that the first act is weak, and that's tough for a comedy to recover from.  And the bizarre appearance of the main character comes off poorly in the first act, because there doesn't appear to be much effort or skill put into making things funny beyond a weird haircut and buck teeth.  And if that's supposed to sustain the entire film, it doesn't instill much confidence that the next hour or so is going to be any better.

Once Bucky is out of the Midwest and in Los Angeles, his no-nonsense earnestness plays off of the more jaded "industry" types, and the humor works a lot better.  I'm not going to lie, I laughed quite a bit once Bucky got to L.A.  Christina Ricci is likable, Don Johnson fills his role well, and Kevin Nealon has a one-note character, but that note is consistently funny.  I'm not sure what could have improved this movie (and if you say "not making it in the first place," you now have to go stand in the corner); the premise is funny, and the performances are decent.  If you accept that Adam Sandler and company are going to make this movie (regardless if you like it or not), then I think you have to accept that they made as much of the material as is possible.  There are a few good scenes present, the awards ceremony sequence and the scene of Bucky and Kathy visiting an oddities museum among them.

Swardson (and writers Swardson, Allen Covert, and Adam Sandler) take an interesting approach to Bucky - no apologies.  The character may be naive, but once he finds his direction he's committed and ready to do whatever it takes.  If there had been a hint of shame in either the writing or the performance, this film would have been unwatchable.  Even if the jokes sometimes fall flat, it's just a joke that didn't work.  There's nothing undercutting it.  But for the first twenty minutes or so, there was a much higher percentage of jokes that didn't work.  For instance, I couldn't tell if Bucky's friends were setting him up when they got together to play a stag film with Bucky's parents in it.  That completely undermined any humor for me - the other characters seemed surprised, but there was an undercurrent of maliciousness in the other characters that tipped the joke and suggested otherwise.

Again, this isn't the best movie I've ever seen.  I think Nick Swardson is generally pretty funny, and I've surely seen my share of Happy Madison movies over the years.  But people act like Adam Sandler murdered their parents or something every time he or his production company releases a film, as if his mere existence is too much to bear.  I wish I could muster up that much rage over a somewhat funny movie just because it didn't suit my tastes exactly.  Honestly, it's not like anyone had to go see "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star;" if this sort of film isn't your cup of tea, it's self-inflicted damage.  But if it is, it's definitely better than "Benchwarmers."

2 / 5 - Blu-Ray

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