To best summarize the violent tonal changes that plague "Good Luck Chuck," imagine for a moment if "Bachelor Party" had a subplot concerning the events of 9/11.
The recipient of a curse as a teenager by a spurned goth girl, Chuck has spent his life chasing love, but unable to make progress. When it's revealed his curse allows women he sleeps with the ability to find romantic perfection with the next man they meet, the whole town is calling up Chuck to abuse his gift. When Chuck meets accident-prone Cam (Jessica Alba), he falls in love, but can't seal the deal with her out of fear she'll turn away. With the help of his best friend (Dan Fogler), Chuck is off to rid himself of his powers and win Cam's heart.
I'm doing my best to embrace Dane Cook as a big screen star, but he isn't bringing the thunder like I know he's capable of. Last year's flat-tire comedy "Employee of the Month" muted Cook in an effort to promote him to romantic leading man status, leaving the jokes to unpleasant actors like Dax Shepard and Andy Dick. Why cast Cook only to write him a role that requires the stand-up comic to be a bystander to the fun? Well, that was one of several reasons that made "Employee" one of the worst films of last year.
"Good Luck Chuck" isn't quite the twisting knife "Employee" was, but it furthers the strange beautification of Cook as he lunges to be taken seriously as an actor. More power to him, but he isn't comfortable with himself in front of a camera yet, and "Chuck" is a film that's hasn't the foggiest idea what it wants to say.
"Chuck" opens like a traditional romantic comedy. It holds a jokey premise, contains a meet cute, and revels in the "electricity" between co-stars Cook and Alba. Then, to best explore Chuck's curse, the film transforms into a lewd, slightly graphic sex comedy with a mighty display of naked breasts and more intercourse jokes than you can shake a stick at. Suddenly, we have this unwieldy randy comedy. Soon, "Chuck" switches back to the lovey-dovey material, begging the audience to care about these two crazy kids as they chase the brass ring of love. Then it U-turns back into a slapstick farce. Then it wants weepy hearts again. Back and forth it ping-pongs until it resembles a soupy muck of intentions and performances, offering neither warmth nor humor, just a headache.
Material like this needs the full court press from Cook, but he's content to stand on the sidelines while his co-stars snatch up all the comedic opportunities. I know Cook has a lot of naysayers out in the world, but if the choice was between Cook and Dan Fogler for chuckles, I'll take Cook any day of the week. As he did in "Balls of Fury," Fogler flops all over his section of the film, overemphasizing and flat-out screaming his lines in a losing effort to be the funny sidekick of the picture. He's horrendous in "Chuck," making his every appearance in the film cruel torment. Fogler needs to be run out of Hollywood.
Jessica Alba doesn't fair much better, hoping "Chuck" will be her springboard to different roles, but editor-turned-director Mark Helfrich doesn't have a clue what to do with her. A majority of Alba's role is set aside for pratfalls and non-existent chemistry with Cook. She's game, but ineffective.
There's no entry point to "Chuck," no place to get comfortable. One minute the picture wants the viewer to feel for Chuck and Cam as their romance hit speed bumps and misdirection (complete with melodramatic orchestra swells) and the next we have to contend with harebrained gross-out gags, or even lamer jokes featuring a lady with three breasts or Fogler humping a melon. Dear lord this film is a mess.
Cook is in the prime of his life and he should concentrate on making comedies that rumble across the screen, not these faux-sentimental stinkers that will end up killing his career in a hurry.
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