Dir: Tom Brady. US. 2010. 95mins


Working under the incorrect assumption that anything having to do with porn is hilarious, Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star is a consistently strained comedy without much charm or wit. Produced and co-written by Adam Sandler, the film features Sandler’s brand of lowbrow humour, but star Nick Swardson fails to make his local-yokel hero who’s striving for adult-film glory anything other than insufferable.

Swardson displays little comic spark or charisma.

Released in the US without screening for critics, this Columbia Pictures offering will appeal to Sandler fans and those familiar with Swardson from his stand-up career and bit roles in Sandler films like Just Go With It. Still, Bucky Larson would seem to have little crossover appeal, and after what’s presumed to be a disastrous opening-weekend haul this meagre comedy should be quickly retreating to DVD and cable.

The movie’s title hero (played by Swardson) is a sheltered, small-town Midwesterner with horrible buckteeth and no sexual experience, but he decides to change his life after discovering that his kindly parents (Edward Herrmann and Miriam Flynn) were once 1970s porn stars. Inspired by their example, Bucky moves out to Hollywood to follow in his folks’ footsteps, falling for a cute, sweet waitress (Christina Ricci) in the process.

While it can be easy to criticise the types of movies Sandler produces through his Happy Madison production company - beyond his own starring vehicles, they’ve also overseen Zookeeper and Paul Blart: Mall Cop - Bucky Larson is in its own special category because of its juvenile tone and threadbare comic spirit. Director Tom Brady, who previously helmed The Comebacks and The Hot Chick, isn’t a filmmaker known for subtlety or emotional nuance, but even on its own raunchy, proudly moronic R-rated terms Bucky Larson can’t muster up much naughty, anarchic glee. Indeed, Bucky Larson might be the tamest laugher ever to feature this many bare breasts and semen jokes.

Another crucial flaw is the casting of Swardson, who also co-wrote the script. Sandler has made room for him in several of his projects, but as a leading man (albeit playing a heavily caricatured character) Swardson displays little comic spark or charisma. Even playing off Ricci, the film’s sole saving grace as Bucky’s potential girlfriend, his one-note performance is terribly off-putting, particularly because Bucky seems stupid and noxious rather than innocent and lovable.

In a movie like this, logic is hardly of paramount importance, but even here Bucky Larson fails miserably. The movie’s big twist is that Bucky, although not well-endowed at all, becomes a success in the porn world because audiences are grateful to see an actor for once with a penis smaller than their own. It’s a far-fetched and ridiculous notion that’s never once plausible, but at least it beats tired jokes about the cheesiness of adult films’ production values or the pretentiousness of some porn directors who think they’re auteurs. Unfortunately, Bucky Larson has those jokes as well.

Production companies: Columbia Pictures, Happy Madison
US: Sony, www.sonypictures.com
Producers: Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson, David Dorfman
Screenplay: Adam Sandler & Allen Covert & Nick Swardson
Cinematography: Michael Barrett
Production designer: Dina Lipton
Editor: Jason Gourson
Music: Waddy Wachtel
Website: www.buckylarson.com
Main cast: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Edward Herrmann, Kevin Nealon, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff, Miriam Flynn, Ido Mosseri