16 May 2009

Movie Review: My Best Friend's Girl


My Best Friend’s Girl
2008, 112mins, R
Director: Howard Deutch
Writer: Jordan Cahan
Cast includes: Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Lizzy Caplan, Diora Baird
Release Date: 19th September 2008

Dane Cook has had an underachieving beginning to his cinematic career, previous efforts “Employee of the Month” and “Good Luck Chuck” pinged in as merely average, reining the magnetic performer into bland and inoffensive romantic leads. Both movies retained the man’s penchant for vulgarity, but his ability to wield a punch line was ignored by scripts that happily let the supporting acts upstage the poster star. That’s not the case in “My Best Friend’s Girl” a surprisingly good romantic comedy with a black edge severely lacking in the genre. Those who can’t stomach crude and misogynistic humor need not apply, nor should Dane Cook’s many haters, but for me this is a first good step in the direction of comedic redemption.

Tank Turner (Dane Cook) is by his own definition an emotional terrorist, to compliment his customers service job at an Air Purifier firm he takes girls out on horrible dates, so they’ll realise just how great and dreamy their last boyfriend was. Guys pay Tank healthy sums of cash to do the deed, and within the art he’s second to none. An opportunity for a gag arrives when Tank’s best friend Dusty (Jason Biggs) is dumped by love of his life Alexis (Kate Hudson), and as a result left in a mire of distress and disappointment. Tank quickly organizes a date with Alexis and shows her an appropriately terrible time, but in a surprise move she warms to him, registering him as just the sort of one night stand jerk she requires. As the pair better get to know each other love slowly blossoms, Alexis seemingly bringing out the closet romantic in Tank. However as their relationship strengthens Tank is faced with a dilemma, betray his best friend, ditch his dream girl, or risk losing both.

“My Best Friend’s Girl” works purely on the grounds that Cook is in sensational comic form, he improvs like a man on fire and uncovers good laughs on route. The part requires Cook not just to fork of his stand up talents but also to try and unearth a 3-D and emotionally complex character, something that he actually comes fairly close to achieving. Granted he’s a lot more assured when riffing on all manner of vulgar topics, but in the end Cook actually comes good and provides an agreeable leading man performance. The support is a little more rickety, Hudson does a passable job as a romantic interest and serves up acceptable chemistry with Cook, but doesn’t look particularly bothered in turning Alexis into anything other than romantic comedy template 1024. Jason Biggs an actor, who I’d rather see less of in the future, is more creepy than nice, though some of his scenes with Cook are genuinely amusing. More effective are Lizzy Caplan and Alec Baldwin, playing Alexis’s roommate and Tank’s Dad respectively. Caplan has more punch in her performance than Hudson does in hers, and one almost feels the picture might be better had the two switched screen time. As Tank’s sexist and womanizing Dad, Baldwin is in full blown cartoon mode, but the man never lets that get in the way of delivering raucous and shockingly misogynistic giggles.

The film has a peculiar arc, staring out as a decidedly anti-romance it then swivels 180 degrees and goes for a full blown love story. The screenplay by Jordan Cahan actually manages this transition fairly well, other comedies would become bogged down in schmaltz but whilst the romance factor cranks up towards the end, the picture never loses it edgier tone. Several of the comedic set-pieces concocted work well and are surprisingly inventive, always aided when Cook’s acerbic maw is able to interject and dial up the energy another notch. It can be a hard task to get sweet and gross to balance out, something that “Good Luck Chuck” in particular failed to do, but for my money “My Best Friend’s Girl” nails it.

The film is set in Cook’s native Boston and director Howard Deutch presents it in a glowing way, the city consistently looking gorgeous throughout. At nearly two hours I’d argue the film could do with losing 10 minutes, probably at the slightly overdrawn and bloated romantic finish, yet even being overlong the entertainment factor stays high and doesn’t really relent to the end. On a few occasions there is even directorial flair on show, further etching it above the Rom-com norm. I enjoyed “My Best Friend’s Girl” despite obvious flaws, and can only hope that Dane Cook keeps moving up the comedy ladder. On this occasion there is still room for improvement, but at least the realms of mediocre junk feel distant enough for a recommendation.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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