Roughly thirty seconds into Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, a very brief scene lets audiences know what type of movie they’ve gotten themselves into. We watch as a middle-aged farmer smears peanut butter onto his genitals and stands by idly as goats hungrily approach him. A neighbor passes by. The farmer waves to him casually. The neighbor waves back. One of them makes an offhanded remark about how beautiful a day it is. They both go on their way. Just business as usual, I guess. Meanwhile, we hear faint slurping and smacking sounds, perhaps because the filmmakers thought that the visuals just weren’t obvious enough. I could not wrap my head around this scene, or any of the movie, until the end credits started to roll. At that point, it became all too clear; it was co-written and co-produced by Adam Sandler, who has proven through his raunchy comedies that he wouldn’t know funny even if it came up and bit him.
This movie is jaw-droppingly bad. Apart from being excruciatingly unfunny, it’s degrading, disgusting, offensive, and often times wildly inconsistent in tone. The only experience I can liken it to is watching a train wreck, which actually might have been more entertaining. It stars and was co-written by Nick Swardson, who sinks himself to the lowest depths in a desperate ploy for laughs. He plays Bucky Larson, a simpleton from Iowa. Do you recall the controversy surrounding Tropic Thunder a few years ago, specifically Ben Stiller’s portrayal of the mentally challenged Simple Jack? What naysayers failed to see was that the target wasn’t the handicapped, but actors who take on handicapped roles and are typically awarded for them. Protesters would have something to complain about in the case of Bucky Larson. Cheerfully clueless and sporting a bowl haircut and grotesquely pronounced buckteeth, the title character is a desperately broad caricature made with the intention of being laughed at instead of with. There’s no satire, only cruelty.
A description of the plot will reveal a fundamental flaw, namely that the film fails on a basic conceptual level. It begins when Bucky is fired from his bagging job at the local supermarket. He’s told by a toothless elderly woman that he was destined for greatness, and being the sunny manchild he is, he gleefully accepts her proclamation with open arms. Later that night, while at a friend’s house, he watches his first ever porn movie on an old-fashioned projector. So innocent is Bucky that he doesn’t even know what masturbation is, but that’s sort of beside the point; the stars of the movie are none other than his parents (Edward Herrmann and Miriam Flynn), who later reveal to him, with tremendous good humor, that they made eighty-three porn films back in the 1970s. Bucky recalls the old woman at the supermarket and determines that his destiny lies in leaving the farmlands of Iowa and becoming a “movie star” in Los Angeles, like his parents did.
The next thing we know, he’s wandering the streets of Hollywood with nauseating dreamy-eyed optimism. He happens upon a diner, which he assumes is where the movie stars eat because the word “famous” is part of the name. A pretty waitress named Kathy (Christina Ricci) immediately befriends him and sets him up with a place to live. She spends the rest of the film being so unwaveringly supportive of him that we wonder if she’s just as simple-minded as he is. A series of very unlikely encounters leads Bucky to Miles Deep (Don Johnson), a pill-popping, down-and-out porn director. Bucky’s first porn shoot doesn’t go as planned, but wouldn’t you know, footage was leaked onto the internet and has generated over a million hits. Miles sees an opportunity; actors as unattractive and tragically non-endowed as Bucky can potentially ease the minds of insecure men and unsatisfied women. More movies are made. In due time, Bucky becomes porn’s newest sensation. It culminates with a particularly lucky night at an adult awards show in Las Vegas.
Does this sound like a movie you’d enjoy watching? The dirty-minded ineptitude with which the screenplay was written is matched only by the curious casting choices. Apart from Ricci and Johnson, we also have Stephen Dorff as a rival porn star, who will arrogantly regale audiences with his reasons for entering the business in the first place. His vulgar, insensitive dialogue is nothing compared to scenes of Bucky on set; no actual intercourse takes place, and yet, at the mere sight of breasts, he loses control to such a degree that he ejaculates all over the room in a matter of seconds. No sir, nothing says funny like revolting semen jokes.
Although the movie is a catastrophic failure as a comedy, someone should have clued Ricci in to the fact that it was intended to be funny. I don’t know whether she or director Tom Brady is more at fault, but whatever the case, she labors mightily under the delusion that her role should be taken seriously. Kathy is warm, gracious, and sincere, and she shows not the slightest traces of parody, not even when we learn that she blew her lifelong dream of being a waitress in a five-star restaurant by spilling soup on an old woman’s lap. For a movie like Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, this is the absolute wrong approach. Her sweetness and integrity come off so awkwardly that she seems to have been transplanted from an entirely different movie – one that was actually making an effort. Through her, we’re supposed to believe that she and Bucky could conceivably fall in love. You’ll forgive me, but I’d sooner be convinced by the plot of a porn movie.
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