Bucky Larson: Born to Be a StarReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/09/11 17:28:05
Just over a week ago, I found myself in the bizarre situation of having to sit down and write a review of A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," an already forgotten would-be stab at ribald comedy and in a desperate effort to say something about that wasn't completely negative, I noted the brief appearance of Don Johnson, the star of the iconic Eighties TV series "Miami Vice" and the singer of the even-more-iconic Eighties pop classic "Heartbeat," and suggested that he brought so much genuine charisma to what was little more than a cameo that I wished that someone would have the good sense and taste to cast him in a larger role in a major motion picture. Perhaps when I said that, I should have specified that the ideal vehicle I was thinking of something along the lines of, say, a Coen Brothers remake of the classic "Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man" that would have him and Mickey Rourke switching parts or maybe a big-screen version of his not-too-tacky Nineties series "Nash Bridges." Hell, even a full-on feature centered on the scene-stealing bad-ass that he played in the otherwise dismal "Machete" might have been satisfactory. What I wasn't thinking of was that he would turn up as the second banana, as it where, in a smug, sneering and decidedly unpleasant production from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison comedy factory that I would describe as giving new meaning to the word "slapdash" except for my suspicion that no one involved has any idea of the old meaning. And yet, that is exactly what has transpired with "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," a film so amazingly lacking in wit, intelligence or even inspired raunch that it almost makes Sandler's "Just Go With It" look mildly tolerable by comparison. (Remember, I said "almost.")Like most Happy Madison productions, especially the ones that Sandler can't be bothered to appear in himself, "Bucky Larson" is little more than excuse to get his buddies off the street and on the dime of studios wishing to remain in his good graces. The recipient of Sandler's largesse this time around is Nick Swardson, a Sandler crony best known for his second-tier appearances in Sandler movies, a few stand-up specials and being the answer to the deathless question "Who the #$&@ is Nick Swardson?" This time around, he plays Bucky Larson, a small-town Iowa denizen whose chief characteristics are a borderline moronic intellect, huge buck teeth and an accent that sounds like all the voices in "Fargo" being violated by a foghorn. Bucky lives at home with his resoundingly cheerful parents (Edward Herrmann and Miriam Flynn) and what passes for a plot kicks off when he discovers, under the ickiest circumstances possible, that back in the Seventies, Mom and Dad starred in a series of porno films with such deathless titles as "The Farmer in the Smell" and. . .you know, as I have already mentioned the funniest of the lot, I will just leave it at that. Feeling that destiny has seized him by something or other, Bucky decides on a whim that he is meant to make his way out to Hollywood himself and star in adult films as well. Tragically, his parents seem to think that this is a swell idea and before anyone can talk sense into him or viewers can get up to sneak into the theater showing "Shark Night," Bucky is off to Tinseltown.
Sadly, La-La land is not initially kind to Bucky--the roommate he acquires (Kevin Nealon) is a raging loon, his first audition goes horribly wrong when he mistakes an audition for a mac & cheese commercial for a porn reading (though this is understandable considering that both situations end in a gruesome mess that only a fool would dare swallow) and an appearance at a porn industry party leads to his public humiliation at the hands (and hands only, thankfully) of porn stud Dick Shadow (Stephen Dorff, effectively flushing away whatever goodwill he acquired from his work on Sofia Coppola's lovely "Somewhere"). Despite being befriended by sweet-faced and presumably insane waitress Kathy (Christina Ricci, given material so far beneath her that it is no longer a mystery as to why she is moving into television), Bucky is about to lose all hope when over-the-hill smut director Miles Deep (the aforementioned Don Johnson) overhears his story and decides to take a chance on the newcomer based on his lineage. Due to his shortcomings, talent and otherwise, his screen test is a disaster/biohazard but when the footage is placed on the internet, it becomes a fluke sensation and Miles hits upon an brainstorm. His theory is that Bucky is the perfect porn star for couples because of his negative impact--all the men watching him will feel better about themselves and all the women watching will feel better about the guys they are watching it with. To everyone's surprise, the hunch pays off and Bucky becomes a star--of course, it is hard to understand why everyone is so shocked since Ron Jeremy has been making a living off of that very principle for decades.
Like the world's smuttiest Jerry Lewis movie, lacking only the humor and quiet dignity, "Bucky Larson" is bottom-barrel junk of a crappiness that is stunning even by Happy Madison standards. For starters, while Swardson has demonstrated himself to be borderline intolerable in the past in small supporting turns, this stab at a leading role finds him going way over the borderline and into realms of loathsomeness that make the likes of David Spade and Rob Schneider seem like combinations of Oscar Wilde and Kermit the Frog by comparison. You know how in a group of dumb guys that there is always one who is willing to take off his shirt and act like a goon when prodded by his buddies solely to bask in their condescending laughter? Well, Swardson is just that kind of person but instead of being asked to feel sorry for him, we are being asked to fork over $10 a gander to witness his debasement and the fact that he seems perfectly content to look and sound insipid throughout is more depressing than amusing. Put it this way, he could have been working in the service of the finest screenplay and filmmakers around and he still would have torpedoed the whole thing with his half-to-full-assed behavior and believe me, the group of bottom-feeders in charge here (led by director Tom Brady, who isn't the New England quarterback of the same name but who is so incompetent in his duties that he might as well have be) is anything but. The comedy has all the subtlety of a porn-star mustache and no doubt many of the same odors as well--things are so dire in the humor department that when Pauly Shore turns up for a cameo as himself, I had the horrifying sensation that his presence could only help but improve the proceedings. The kindest thing that I can say about the film is that unlike most sex-related comedies of late, it actually dares to include a healthy bit of nudity into the proceedings but since most of these sequences also include the sight of Nick Swardson in the grips of what appears to be either passion or a stroke, I predict that it will have an effect on viewers not unlike the legendary Ludovico Technique, o my brothers.I really don't have anything more to say about "Bucky Lawson: Born to Be a Star" but in all fairness, I should mention two things about that did mildly amuse me, even though they don't really have anything to do with the film itself. The first is the idea of Don Johnson playing a porn industry vet by the name of Miles Deep. This itself isn't especially amusing but I kept thinking that it might have been funnier if his character had also been named Don Johnson, a perfectly acceptable porn nom de plume, as well. (Look, I didn't say that it was that funny, just funnier than anything in the film.) The other thing is that Edward Herrmann, in the same week that this film is being released, will also see the premiere of a project more suited to his talents, the voice of the audio version of Roger Ebert's autobiography, "Life Itself." In other words, Roger Ebert is only one degree of separation from the people responsible for "Bucky Larson." As he is currently at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was unable to ask what he thought about this connection but I suspect that if I had, his reaction would have consisted of a slightly abashed shrug and a request for a "Contagion"-sized bottle of Purell. Believe me, I know the feeling.
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