Movie Review: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
By Matthew Huntley
September 19, 2011
Let me be clear: Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star is a very bad movie - stupid, unfunny and infantile. It’s clearly one of the worst movies of the year. And yet, it’s not mean or hateful, and in that regard, it’s not a completely painful experience. It’s a bad one for sure, but it’s more lethargic than excruciating. That’s about the only praise I can offer it.
After the movie, I pictured the so-called creative sessions between the three screenwriters, Adam Sandler, Allen Covert and Nick Swardson. I wondered, when they gathered to write this swill, did they really laugh at the material they were putting on paper? When one of them pitched the idea of a grown man masturbating in front of his friends, did the others start to laugh and urge him to keep going with it? Is that how they responded to the overall tired premise of a Midwestern man coming to Hollywood to be a porn star? Or that same man having a small penis and ejaculating uncontrollably?
I suppose this kind of stuff can be funny in certain contexts, like when talking crudely among your guy friends at a party or on a long road trip, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in a screenplay. Unfortunately, Sandler, Covert and Swardson see things differently, and because of Sandler’s inexplicably strong box-office clout, what he says probably goes, which includes letting his friends write and star in their own movies. If only Sandler would star in a bomb; maybe then movie studios would question his decisions.
Swardson plays the title character, Bucky Larson, a buck-tooth, virginal mamma’s boy from a Podunk town in Iowa. One day he’s fired from his job as a bagger at the local grocery store and his friends decide to cheer him up by showing him a porno. To their surprise, the thirtysomething Bucky has never masturbated before, so they give him tips and watch him conduct himself as the movie rolls. When he sees his parents (Edward Hermann and Miriam Flynn) are the stars of the porn, he thinks it’s his destiny to follow in their footsteps. So he hops on the bus for Los Angeles and tries to break into the industry.
Along the way, he befriends a cute waitress named Kathy (Christina Ricci) and meets a has-been porn director named Miles Deep (Don Johnson), who offers him a leading role because he figures there’s a variety of perverse, sexual audiences out there, even ones willing to pay to see Bucky. The first day of shooting reveals Bucky is prone to involuntary orgasms at the slightest hint of female sexuality, and the footage becomes an overnight sensation on YouTube. By sheer luck and circumstance, Bucky is suddenly rocketed him into porn superstardom.
You might say Bucky Larson is a play on Forrest Gump and Boogie Nights, as it’s about an ignorant wanderer who obtains fame just by being in the right place at the right time, and because that fame happens to be rooted in the porn industry. And just like Dirk Diggler, Bucky wins several awards and steals the limelight away from the current porn juggernaut, Dick Shadow (Stephen Dorff).
But even though I dared to compare Bucky Larson to Forest Gump and Boogie Nights, purely from a content point of view, I’m not saying Sandler, Covert or Swardson were necessarily mindful enough to satirize those two movies, not least because their idea of humor hovers around that of a 10-year-old, one who’s curious about sex and private parts but too embarrassed to ask questions and then simply reverts to making fun of them as a defense mechanism.
However, because this movie is rated R, and rightfully so, it’s not likely to reach many 10-year-olds, which then begs the question, who’s it actually meant for? I know humor is all relative, but I can’t imagine any adult would find this material funny. Maybe it’s for those who find overgrown buck teeth a riot? Or maybe fans of Kevin Nealon, who plays Bucky’s irascible L.A. roommate? Either way, the list is small.
What’s baffling is how an actress as pleasant and full of range as Christina Ricci would ever think to appear in this movie. Although, in a way, I’m grateful she did, because her radiant face and charisma helped save it from being a total disaster. She is at least sweet and likable, as is Swardson, but the material and jokes are so puerile that it’s darn near impossible not to always be shaking your head or rolling your eyes.
Still, as much as I cringed during this movie, I have to admit I didn’t walk away angry. That’s not laudation, but more an observation that Bucky Larson isn’t so bad it deserves to be placed in the lower echelon of offensive movies, just bad ones. The movie is stupid, but it’s the kind of stupid you automatically forget as opposed to actively trying to forget. And I have a feeling that when Sandler, Covert and Swardson realize just how badly it’s going to crash and burn, not only with critics but also at the box-office, they’ll be the ones trying to actively forget it. I suppose that’s an appropriate punishment for writing it.