The current kings of the gross-out romantic comedy (that's Judd Apatow and crew) have nothing to fear from Good Luck Chuck. Neither do former kingpins the Farrelly brothers though director Mark Helfrich's debut film here tries to mimic There's Something About Mary (1998), even naming Jessica Alba's charming but klutzy penguin expert Cam. (Both this film and the Farrelly's forthcoming The Heartbreak Kid share the ad catchphrase "love blows.")
Good Luck Chuck has a great central premise, but suffers from a lack of anything resembling heart. Charlie Logan is a successful dentist and serial dater (always avoiding the three little words his girlfriends want to hear), who begins to notice a strange pattern in his life: After he breaks up with a woman, she goes on to meet her ideal mate and quickly gets married.
Screenwriter Josh Stolberg sets Charlie up as a basically decent guy who must contend with the gift/curse of giving women what they (presumably) want most without ever falling in love himself. Ron Livingston or Luke Wilson could juggle Charlie's warring impulses and make him endearing, but Dane Cook isn't up to the task.
Cook's tendency is to deliver lines as if he's performing his stand-up routine, and he looks visibly disappointed to not get the expected laugh in return. His are two basic expressions comfortably numb and alarmingly shrill. He only really comes to life during a montage of athletic sexual positions (triggered by the convenient plot twist that Charlie's "charm" can be bestowed after a single carnal encounter).
The makers of Good Luck Chuck don't know the difference between risky and risqué, and crass doesn't even begin to describe some of the situations (involving warmed grapefruits and stuffed penguins), but there are a few redeeming qualities. Chief among them is Alba who, like Cameron Diaz, seems freed by not having to be the perfect pretty girl. Her clumsiness is taken to the level of extreme sports, yet Alba remains refreshingly grounded.
While Dan Fogler (as Charlie's lifelong best friend) is positioned to be the next comedic breakout star, his immensely crude cosmetic surgeon is just a big boob. As Cam's stoner brother, who uses philosophy books for rolling paper, Lonny Ross (30 Rock) steals the show with dead-on reactions to situations like an elderly, white barbershop quartet performing Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love." Smoking Nietzsche has never seemed quite so appealing.
Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.