Dir: Mark Helfrich. US. 2007. 99 mins.
A high-energy servicing of the randy, relationship-oriented sex comedy sub-genre, Good Luck Chuck feels work-shopped for big business, but beset by awkward tonal swings that seem less a function of story, and much more nakedly designed to try to lure in different demographics. The result is a ramshackle piece of fleeting entertainment that lacks the airy, character-rooted charms of fellow R-rated comedies Wedding Crashers and There's Something about Mary, the films to which it most obviously aspires.
Powered by a ubiquitous ad campaign and the ascendant profiles of its two leads, Good Luck Chuck should see solid return among its chief target demo of young males. Relatively steep and steady drop-off should follow, though, as the movie doesn't possess the sort of word-of-mouth freshness to lure in a much broader cross-section. Ancillary market value will remain high, though, with abundant nudity eventually lending itself to repeated viewings and DVD sales within the movie's hardcore audience set.
The film opens in suitably naughty fashion, when young Charlie (Dane Cook) gets a hex placed on him by a Goth-inclined classmate when he spurns her aggressive make-out advances during a game of spin-the-bottle. Years later, and now a successful dentist, Charlie finds himself unable to find happiness in love.
At the wedding of an ex-girlfriend, when word gets around that every woman who sleeps with him will marry the next man she meets, Charlie becomes an in-demand good-luck charm, with all sorts of ladies - from sexy strangers to his overweight receptionist - lining up for a quickie.
This doesn't qualify as a problem to Charlie's best friend Stu (Dan Fogler), a lecherous cosmetic surgeon who has a shrine to Pamela Anderson's removed breast implants in his office. For a while Charlie indulges this casual carnality, but comes to find a life filled with all sex and no love a lonely one indeed - especially when he meets accident-prone Aqua World penguin habitat keeper Cam Wexler (Jessica Alba).
Charlie becomes convinced that Cam is his perfect match, but she's wary of his reputation. Eventually coming to believe in the curse himself, Charlie goes so far as to test out its power with the grossly overweight Eleanor (Jodie Stewart), all before a third act that comes back around to Charlie trying to get back in the good graces of Cam
The directorial debut of longtime editor Mark Helfrich, Good Luck Chuck's chief concept takes a rather dim view of women, and Josh Stolberg's script never really does much to tweak the notion of objectified masculinity, or elevate the proceedings beyond a sort of madcap steeplechase.
The movie is studded with a few bawdy sequences, and mixes in some visual jokes (one woman has a 'George W' tattoo just above her bikini line), but for the most part it serves as a showcase for the affable presence of stand-up comedian Cook. It does however become repetitive, with multiple set-ups designed simply to indulge character riffs rather than advance the story.
Cook imports a lot of the same wild gesticulations and physical pantomime that are a large part of his stage act. It's an entertaining but mannered tack which has the effect of undermining identification with him.
Fogler, meanwhile, matches this tone of heightened, high-energy mania, putting a wicked topspin on almost all of his dialogue. Needless to say, believing this pair as doctors of any sort is a stretch that exceeds the movie's grasp.
At once spare and too open-spaced, Charlie and Stu's adjoining medical offices give off the feel of a television serial, and our exposure to Cam at work is limited to only a few locations, adding further to a boxed-in feeling.
Aaron Zigman's music keeps things moving at a brisk pace.
Tracey E. Edmonds
Anthony B. Richmond
Mark S. Freeborn