Eric D. Snider September 12, 2011
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star is about a man who succeeds in the porn industry despite having none of the talents or assets required for the job. The movie was made by people who have succeeded in the comedy industry despite not being funny. Write what you know, I guess.
This awful thing, awful even by the usual standards of awful things, is the first starring vehicle for Nick Swardson, a once-promising stand-up comedian who has cast his lot with the Adam Sandler posse. After co-writing Grandma’s Boy and The Benchwarmers, he has written this awful thing, with Sandler and Allen Covert, and it has been, for want of a better word, “directed” by Tom Brady. This is the Tom Brady who made The Hot Chick and The Comebacks, not the Tom Brady who plays football, although who’s to say which of them is better at making movies? The football Tom Brady would probably have the good sense NOT to include a scene where a farmer applies peanut butter to his crotch and has goats lick it off, so he might have the advantage over filmmaker Tom Brady, who lacks such discretion.
Swardson plays the title character, a naive, sexless Iowa man-child with buck teeth and a pageboy haircut. I mention his teeth and hair because the movie also mentions them — constantly, in the form of other characters mocking them. (They teach that on the first day of Lazy Comedy Writing 101: for easy laughs, give a character an abnormality and just have everybody make jokes about it!) One night Bucky’s friends introduce him to pornography, which Bucky has never heard of, and masturbation, which Bucky has also never heard of. He is instantly a fan of both, even after also discovering, in the worst possible way, that his own square, nerdy parents (Edward Herrmann and Miriam Flynn) used to be popular porn stars.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, the Larsons share with Bucky their fond memories of making porn, and he is inspired to go to Los Angeles to follow in their footsteps. I think we’re supposed to find it automatically funny that the conservative Iowans are proud of their work rather than embarrassed by it, and while that is indeed the germ of a good comedy premise (remember the Mr. Show sketch about a mom-and-pop sex store?), the movie doesn’t do anything to cultivate it. That’s typical of the whole awful thing, actually. You can spot individual moments or situations that could have been developed into funny scenes, only nobody bothered to develop them.
So Bucky leaves Iowa — a weird part of Iowa where everyone speaks in thick, exaggerated Minnesota accents, by the way — and sets out to find his destiny. The non-joke once he arrives in L.A. is that he is so clueless and borderline retarded (several people ask if he is) that he has no idea how life works. He sees a flier for an open audition and assumes it’s for a nudie film because he apparently thinks that’s the only kind of film there is? I guess? He’s never seen a regular movie before? Or something? Anyway, he goes to the audition, which is for a macaroni-and-cheese TV commercial, and takes off his pants. Again: great potential in the idea of an actor going into the wrong audition with the wrong thing in mind. But WHY does he have the wrong idea? What led to his misinterpretation?
He does eventually find his way into the actual porn industry, where the non-jokes are that he has a tiny penis and that he climaxes immediately simply by being in the same room as a naked woman. A third-tier porn director, Miles (Don Johnson), thinks there might be a niche market for this kind of incompetent sexuality, and he turns out to be right, and Bucky is a star. His one L.A. friend, a sweet waitress named Kathy (Christina Ricci) with a dumb dream of her own, encourages him, while the industry’s leading porn actor (Stephen Dorff) seethes with jealousy.
You might expect a film like this to makes jokes about porn stars, the porn industry, or show business in general. You’d expect it to at least make jokes about sexuality and its place in society. But you would be wrong. Swardson and his associates show no interest in … well, in anything, really. They give Bucky an L.A. roommate, played by Kevin Nealon, who’s mean to him, but no reason for the meanness, or any direction for it to go. That failure is repeated constantly, resulting in a movie that isn’t even a series of skits, but a series of vague ideas for skits that nobody fleshed out.
Categories: ReviewsTags: Adam sandler, Bucky larson born to be a star, Christina ricci, Kevin nealon, Nick swardson