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Bludgeoning romantic comedy

The Baltimore Sun

The division between explosive, authentic sexual humor and clumsy, boorish exploitation is no "fine line" - it's more of a natural boundary, as broad as the Pacific. Moviemakers like Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) and, at their best, the Farrelly brothers (There's Something About Mary) have helped energize recent American comedies with a zesty vernacular frankness about male romantic cluelessness and female bewilderment. These filmmakers empathize with and satirize their antiheroes while portraying their heroines as women yearning to be known in more than just a sexual sense.

Today's R-rated farce, Good Luck Chuck, shows what kind of disaster can happen when talentless, tasteless people try to create a humorous romance in the Apatow-Farrelly mode. It's got the perplexed leading man (the bland Dane Cook) and the sweet-natured leading lady (the bright Jessica Alba). But it surrounds them with contrivances of boggling stupidity and a foul, feckless facetiousness that revels in cheap jokes and cheaper thrills.

The movie reduces most of its women to marriage-hungry madwomen (or worse) and revels in male sexual fantasies while pretending to burlesque them. The opening vignette is just an excuse for the first of many starlets to go topless, the closing ones bring a double meaning to the word "gag." The result is the opposite of a good date movie. See it with someone you hate.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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