Review: National Lampoon's Pucked
By Kim Hollis
February 13, 2006
For most people, seeing the name "National Lampoon" attached to the title of a film implies uproarious comedy. After all, if we hearken back to the halcyon days of Animal House and Vacation, it's easy to remember the good times. The reality, however, is far more ugly. Over the years, National Lampoon titles have included my personal pick for worst movie ever, European Vacation, Senior Trip, Golf Punks, Men in White, Repli-Kate, Gold Diggers, Dorm Daze and the upcoming Pledge This! National Lampoon's Pucked (originally known as The Trouble With Frank, which is honestly the better title) follows in the tradition of this long list of unknowns by doing virtually nothing to distinguish itself.
The movie is framed around a courtroom trial, where David Faustino (aka Bud Bundy) is sitting outside awaiting a jury verdict. For some reason, the room is full of all sorts of animals, lovely ladies, and various circus freak types. Naturally, the janitor who is on duty (Curtis Armstrong, aka Charles De Mar) becomes curious about what sort of case would merit such strange participants. Bud Bundy proceeds to tell the story.
It seems that Bud's friend Frank (aka Jon Bon Jovi) is the guy who is being tried. Despite having an apparent awesome talent as a trial lawyer (we know this because all of Bon Jovi's friends and associates remind him of the fact), he has given up that high-flying lifestyle to pursue his dreams. Such dreams have included the development of a boomerang toy that injured the president of the toy company to whom he was presenting it. Nothing seems to work for Frank, and he's living in his sister's garage and getting by on the money she gives him for babysitting her son.
That all changes when one day, Bon Jovi accidentally fills out a credit card application while believing he is completing a simple survey. When asked about his income, he states that his earnings are in excess of a million bucks a year. Soon, a credit card arrives in the mail and Bon Jovi instantly takes advantage of the free money that comes as a benefit of having one of these shiny platinum things. He buys a car for himself and Christmas presents for his family.
It's not long before Bon Jovi is getting more and more credit cards from a variety of different companies. His latest enterprise, an all-women's hockey league, has been laughed down by potential investors (never mind the fact that the sport is highly popular at this very moment in Torino). Determined to succeed, Bon Jovi starts using up his available credit to get the league off the ground. He hires a bevy of beauties (and one giant enforcer) to entice fans, and gets the venture off the ground. Unfortunately, he has been discovered for his credit card fraud and is arrested and sent off to trial, where we'll eventually get to see him put his "real" talent on display (and I mean his lawyerin' not his singing).
Despite being billed as a comedy (the National Lampoon name is attached, after all), I laughed three times during the course of the film. For the most part, the movie resorts to such funny stuff as angry midgets, a girl who speaks French for some reason, and Bud Bundy mugging for the camera as his burgeoning relationship with the aforementioned giant enforcer hockey lady develops. Bon Jovi sort of gets a romance angle of his own, though his love story with Estella Warren isn't well-developed or explored other than to show us they have a past and she thinks he should go back to being an attorney (because she says it over and over and over again). And considering the fact one-time Academy Award nominee Arthur Hiller (Love Story, Plaza Suite) is the director, that's a little surprising and disappointing.
To be fair, though, I can't honestly call the movie a complete bust. Dot Jones, who plays the zaftig hockey queen Wendy, is kind of fun in a way and her romance with Bud Bundy (with whom she appeared on Married With Children long before he was legal) is sort of charming in a creepy way. And although Pucked is short on comedy, I do think that its indictment of credit card companies is one that is well-considered, though perhaps done just as well on shows like Boston Legal and even The Simpsons (remember the one where Bart gets a credit card using the name Santos L. Halper? There's some similar stuff going on in Pucked).
But the movie's real downfall is Bon Jovi, who simply doesn't fit in here. I don't think he's really a bad actor, he just doesn't have comic timing or sensibility. He looks overwhelmed most of the time, and I think it's a little telling that the marketing has pushed him to the background in an effort to focus more on the hockey chicks. The problem is, they're not really that much of the movie's focus, so anyone who's going in hoping for some cheap thrills is going to be sorely disappointed.
On the other hand, if you really, really enjoy midgets in punch bowls and seeing credit card companies eviscerated, Pucked is certainly the movie for you.