Torturous, Awful ‘Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star’

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CHICAGO – Adam Sandler lost a bet. How else to explain the existence of “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star,” a movie that no one but the man behind Happy Madison would possibly finance? If you took this script (co-written by Little Nicky himself) to any sane film producer, they would assume you were pulling a prank. When you told them the shockingly untalented Nick Swardson was attached as the lead, they’d call security. And yet here it is, one of the worst comedies of all time. Must have been a hell of a gamble that resulted in this comedic abomination.

“Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” is awful on two levels. First, there’s the to-be-expected juvenile humor that thinks saying “YouPube” instead of YouTube and “Erection” instead of action qualifies as writing a joke. But bad writing is merely half the problem with this laugh-free excuse for a comedy. The second level of awful comes courtesy of some of the worst direction I’ve seen in a major cinema in years. “Bucky Larson” contains some comic timing so horrendous that it practically approaches Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau pacing. Lines are said and then everyone stands around, as if you can see them waiting for someone to call cut. It’s obvious something this puerile doesn’t need a lot of character development but director Tom Brady (not the New England Patriot, I hope) doesn’t seem competent enough on basic tools of direction like camera placement, continuity, blocking, and, most importantly, how to produce a laugh. It’s like he called action and went to get a coffee. Or something stronger.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

The title character is played by the abrasive and annoying Swardson as a buck-toothed man-child. He’s grown up in Iowa, where he’s been sheltered from every element of the real world, especially sex. When he learns that his parents weren’t just kind-hearted yokels but actually had former lives as porn stars Rosie Bush and Dick Spraysium, he decides that his destiny is to be an actor in “nude” movies – never mind that he’s never had sex and has a penis so small that a straw can be used as a condom (not a joke on my part but in the actual movie…and not a joke there really either). Bucky packs his bags and gets on the bus to Hollywood, determined to follow in the footsteps of his infamous parents.

Of course, the city of angels isn’t exactly kind to dear Bucky, but he finds comfort in the sweet girl next door, a wide-eyed waitress named Kathy (Christina Ricci, apparently owing the devil one more movie before moving on to TV). After dropping his pants and masturbating at a mac & cheese commercial audition, Larson stumbles into the porn industry, crossing paths with the nefarious actor/producer Dick Shadow (Stephen Dorff, who clearly wanted to do as much as possible to eliminate any goodwill after his career comeback in last year’s “Somewhere”) and eventually becoming the savior for aging director Miles Deep (Don Johnson). Even though Bucky has an immeasurably small unit and shoots his load purely on the sight of the female breast, he becomes a breakout star – the idea being that boyfriends and husbands look better after women see Bucky’s movies.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

Pardon the obvious pun, but there’s so little thrust to “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” that it becomes almost like a piece of performance art, as if you can see the actors and actresses stunned themselves that this movie is being made. They all stand around as if someone is about to reveal that they’ve been Punk’d. We can use big critical words to describe it but all you need to know is that “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” is just bad. It’s not funny at all. One wonders if talented actors like Ricci and Dorff didn’t think they were a part of some purposefully awful movie-within-in-a-movie like the kind seen in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” or “Funny People.”

There is simply no possible way that logical, sane people read this script, watched the production, or saw the dailies and said “Yeah, that’s a good comedy.” I don’t believe it happened. Not once. What’s more likely is that they read, watched, and saw, and said “That’s good enough.” This is one of those comedies that somebody thinks is good enough. Good enough to finance their new boat. Good enough to pay for their kid’s tuition. Good enough to make enough of a profit to keep them working. It’s not. There is ZERO artistic effort or integrity going on here. Adam Sandler may have lost a bet. But don’t lose one yourself.

“Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” stars Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Stephen Dorff, Kevin Nealon, and Don Johnson. It was directed by Tom Brady. It is rated R and opened on September 9th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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