Good Luck Chuck

Sergei Bachlakov/Lionsgate
Mark Helfrich/United States 2007

First we had the documentary (March of the Penguins). Then we had the musical (Happy Feet), followed by the kids’ movie (Surf’s Up). So at last, here it is: the penguin sex comedy. All right, it’s only people doing the nasty, but the world was waiting to see Jessica Alba in penguin panties, so it counts. As the penguin-obsessed Cam, she’s the best thing about this rom-com that mostly maintains a light, entertaining charm.

Charlie (Dane Cook), known as Chuck when only Cockney rhyming slang will do, is a goofy, very single dentist. After a humiliating encounter at an ex-girlfriend’s wedding, he realizes that he’s a lucky charm for all the girls he, ahem, dates – they will all find true love with the next man (in one case, woman) they “date.” It’s all thanks to a goth-girl hex at the tweenie birthday party which starts the film with a bang (although it’s a rare baby goth allowed a leather training bra).

But despite his vigorous attempts to work through the Kama Sutra one partner per position, Charlie doesn’t really enjoy servicing all these desperate women. Once he meets Cam, who works in the penguin sanctuary at the local sea park, he wants the sex to mean something to him too. “What is sex without love?” he asks best friend Stu (the cheerfully filthy Dan Fogler, who should beat Rob Schneider any day now to the crude, ethnically-ambiguous sidekick crown). The reply, like most of Stu’s lines, is quotable, but not printable.

The film is shot almost entirely under bright, almost fluorescent lights, with a primary color scheme reinforcing the visual chirpiness. What’s more, Cook and Alba’s chemistry is unforced and actually sexy. Alba’s very nearly the next Rita Hayworth, but it’s Cook’s leading-man charm which is the surprise. He’s handsome, fast-talking, smart, and willing to do utterly disgusting things to stuffed animals. Therefore it’s such a shame when the film goes downhill.

Part of this is due to Charlie’s one-night stand with the most repulsive girl in town. She lands in the plot like a beached whale and is treated about as respectfully. The actress, Jodie Stewart, is an amateur who won the role through MySpace; no professional would have put herself up for it. But what really blows the film apart is how Charlie squanders all his built-up goodwill through a very bad decision. It’s a poor rom-com which leaves you hoping the cute couple doesn’t get it together. Despite valiant attempts to get the audience laughing again, the movie doesn’t recover from turning so unexpectedly and completely sour.

Somehow Alba comes out with her head held high, despite not quite being the physical comedienne the movie wants her to be. She gracefully steers clear of the film’s missteps, which is no small achievement. This is Mark Helfrich’s directorial debut, although he has edited most of Brett Ratner’s films and once published an art-house book called “Naked Pictures of My Ex-Girlfriends.” The book delivered what the title promised as it completely creeped you out. So does Good Luck Chuck. Since the first half is funny and fresh, and Alba’s appeal is genuine, it’s not all bad. But despite its best efforts, it’s not a movie you’ll respect in the morning.

© 2007 Sarah Manvel. All rights reserved.

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