Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff, Edward Hermann
Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
Laughter Is Contagious;
Behind The Teeth;
Gary: Tough Customer;
I love Adam Sandler.
Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star is not an Adam Sandler film, though it is a Happy Madison motion picture. For those who don't know, Happy Madison is Sandler's production company. Sandler uses Happy Madison not only for his own films, but quite often to produce fairly standard, low-budget fare that keeps his buddies employed. I've long expressed my admiration for Sandler's loyalty to his inner circle, an inner circle that pops up frequently in his films, both on and off the screen.
Allen Covert is a frequent writer, producer and screen presence in these films along with folks like Nick Swardson, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon and a host of others. These films are, for the most part, blue collar versions of Sandler's early films with lots of potty mouth humor, fart jokes, schoolboy fantasies and general silliness. At their best, they're typically guilty pleasures of the lowbrow variety. At their worst, like Strange Wilderness, their downright painful to watch.
I've always gotten the sense that Sandler doesn't so much produce these films to make a buck, but to support those who've turned him into one of cinema's most consistently bankable stars and, as well, those who've simply been loyal and good to him throughout the years.
I say it again. I like Adam Sandler.
Critics are going to hate Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star. Most of America will ignore the film, as evidenced by the fact that I found myself alone in the theater on opening day. These lower budget Happy Madison films have a scant marketing budget and are, for the most part, quickly run through theaters before building a much longer lasting life on home video.
Now, the real stunner and I'm likely going to be alone here.
I enjoyed Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star.
Is Bucky Larson a masterpiece? Far from it. Is it groundbreaking cinema? Not even close. Is anyone in the film likely to pick up any awards? Maybe a Razzie or two.
Sandler is a master at creating quirky, off-kilter characters who are, at their very essence, genuinely wonderful human beings whom you can't help but like. From Billy Madison to The Waterboy to Happy Gilmore and beyond, Sandler has created a garden variety of lovable losers who are man-children with good hearts and generous spirits. While the script for a Sandler film is fairly paint-by-numbers, and the same is true here, Sandler abandons any need for false pretense or unnecessary dramatics and paints lighthearted portrayals of lovable losers who find a way to become winners.
If you hate Sandler's films, you will most assuredly hate Bucky Larson. Even if you love Sandler films, Bucky Larson won't be a favorite of yours but it will be a film that makes you laugh, smile and even let out a few "oohs" and "aaahs."
Bucky (Nick Swardson, also a co-writer/producer on the film) is a bowl-headed grocery bagger in a small Iowa town with, you guessed it, buck teeth and an "aw shucks" approach to life. While hanging out one night with his buddies, Bucky discovers that his parents (Edward Hermann and Miriam Flynn) were once 70's adult film icons known for their down home and naturalistic performances. Inspired by this revelation, Bucky decides that it is his destiny to become a nude film star and heads out for Hollywood.
In most films, even comedies, Bucky would encounter a host of evildoers whose presence would serve as the film's point of conflict. I kept waiting for Bucky to get robbed or beaten or otherwise exploited.
Ah, I forgot. This is a Happy Madison film.
Bucky arrives in Hollywood and within a matter of moments connects with Kathy (Christina Ricci), a waitress at a little dinner where everyone else seems only to see Bucky as some sort of freak of nature. Throughout the film, Bucky is made up for everything from his buck teeth to his haircut to his less than average manhood. Despite it all, Bucky maintains his cheerful demeanor and, of course, gets the girl.
80's television icon Don Johnson makes one of his most entertaining appearances in years as Miles Deep, a porn director who gives Bucky a chance, while Stephen Dorff becomes his arch nemesis as Dick Shadow, um, a reference you should get unless your name is Bucky Larson.
Much like the similarly toned Orgazmo, the majority of Bucky Larson is spent watching Bucky work towards fulfilling his destiny as a porn star only to realize that, perhaps, a certain waitress may be his true destiny. Playing "Opposites Day" with Boogie Nights, Bucky becomes a success precisely because he is significantly under-endowed. Men aren't intimidated by him and, as the marketing goes, women see him and become grateful for what they've got. Kathy, on the other hand, simply seems to recognize the genuinely good-hearted man inside and spurns repeated advances from a determined Dick Shadow.
Much like Sandler, Nick Swardson is an acquired taste. You either enjoy his brand of infantile, goofball humor or you don't. If you don't, then you shouldn't waste your time with this film. If you do, however, you'll have a blast watching Swardson sell both the silliness and the sentiment of it all. The real joy? Christina Ricci is perfectly cast opposite Swardson, a woman who is beautiful yet seemingly unaware of it. Just as she did in the vastly underrated Pumpkin, Christina Ricci manages to make an obvious mismatch seem perfectly logical.
Directed by Tom Brady (The Hot Chick), Bucky Larson may not be as consistently funny as many of Sandler's best films but it is filled to the brim with Sandler's trademark balance of heart and humor. The film is co-written by Sandler, Covert and Swardson, and their camaraderie is evident in the film's gags and spirit.
Everyone has guilty pleasures and, for years, Sandler has been one of mine. Even his worst films (Yes, even Little Nicky) I've managed to enjoy. Mostly, I just really appreciate Sandler and this little community of actors, writers, producers and directors that he's managed to create and nurture over the years. While Bucky Larson may be a flawed film, it's a flawed film with plenty of heart, goodness, light humor and a quirky sensibility that made me laugh and, yes, even genuinely touched me on more than one occasion.
In reality, there's no such thing as a guilty pleasure. If a film brings you joy, a smile, healing or simply entertains you then screw what everyone else says and embrace it.
While Sandler fans, Swardson fans, guys with small tools, bowl-headed dudes, waitresses and porn stars may embrace it most, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star is yet another reminder from Sandler and company that deep down inside there's something special in every single one of us.
Now, that makes me smile.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic