Never have I loved Christina Ricci more than the moment she appeared, 20 minutes into the loathsome Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, like an angel out of the ether, casting light where there was once only darkness. By the time the movie was over, I’d never felt as sorry for her either. This one-joke, altogether slipshod comedy is beneath her, and she knows it, but that doesn’t stop her from putting on her game face and delivering the goods to collect a check and help keep the economy going. If there were an Oscar for Best Display of Humility, she’d be right in making shelf space for it as early as this film’s opening weekend.
Bucky Larson (Nick Swardson) is an awkward, buck-toothed native of a rural Ohio town so small that there’s no high school to go to, and he’s traveled to Los Angeles to become a porn star like his parents, who were celebrities in the industry. Except for the fact that he’s never played with himself (“It’s better than Donkey Kong,” he’s told by his chronic masturbator of a neighbor), let alone had sex, and possesses a member that functions primarily to make all who see it feel better about themselves, from guys with small dicks to girls with guys with small dicks. (In keeping with the sneering tone of the film, this fact becomes Bucky’s greatest asset.) When he finally experiences release (via the mere sight of cleavage, no less), his nearly invisible pecker sprays with a reckless abandon that might suggest a centuries-dormant volcano.
In executing this scenario, there’s something to be said for Swardson’s ability to gyrate uncontrollably as he experiences what he describes as “brain sparkles.” Pity the film, which he’s guilty of co-writing, doesn’t make further use of his talent for physical comedy beyond his screeching O face. Bucky Larson treats its title character like a piñata, beating him mercilessly for laughs, when it would do much better to redirect this nastiness toward the celebrities and businessmen of L.A. who impede or exploit his unlikely road to stardom. If only. There’s a suppressed sweetness to Bucky’s innocence, and a better film would have found humor in this fish-out-of-water story without always making him the butt of the joke. In positioning themselves as unrepentant bullies, the voices of Happy Madison, who produced this film, have never been more blatant in their two-faced approach to audience condescension.
This is cinema only insofar as Taco Bell can be called a healthy snack, cobbled together with broken parts from Hollywood’s junk drawer and enough song cues and big names (Don Johnson, sadly par for the course in his post-Miami Vice career) to create the illusion of entertainment. If you’re of the opinion that Napoleon Dynamite wasn’t cruel enough to its characters, Bucky Larson‘s for you. You may or may not laugh, but at least you’ll be closer to death and no better for it.