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My Best Friend's Girl

Devoid of any heart, this film relies on schoolboy toilet humour to maintain interest, but trying to push the limits of good taste does not require much comedic talent.
Dane Cook and Kate Hudson in My Best Friend's Girl.
Dane Cook and Kate Hudson in My Best Friend's Girl.

Tank (Dane Cook) has a rather peculiar way of earning a living. He is paid by recently dumped men to take their ex-girlfriends out on terrible dates in order to make the girls see that the grass is not always greener on the other side and come running back to them. It's a premise that reminded me of the title of a book of cinema lists called Ten Bad Dates With De Niro, which proves that De Niro is the worst actor to go on a date with in a movie. Cook, so repugnant in Good Luck Chuck, is trying to give the Raging Bull star a run for his money here. Unfortunately, Cook is no De Niro; he's not even close, and it doesn't take long for his schtick to grate in a movie that is trying desperately hard to be an American Pie-style romantic comedy.

When Tank's square best friend and roommate, Dustin (Jason Biggs of American Pie fame, playing his standard character), gets the cold shoulder from Alexis (Kate Hudson), the strait-laced sap Dustin enlists Tank to come to his aid. Hudson has been carving out a reputation as the ditsy blonde who breaks hearts in a host of romantic comedies from About Adam to Bride Wars, so there are no prizes for guessing that she quickly turns the tables on Tank during their "date", so much so that the hard man of romance becomes a teddy bear in her presence.

The trouble is that this type of triangulated concept movie is itself dated. Ever since the producer and director Judd Apatow arrived on the scene with films such as Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Step Brothers, the rules on how guys should react and behave in romantic comedies have been rewritten. Alas, Tank and Dustin seem like they are still living in the dark of ages of romantic comedies and soon come to loggerheads over Alexis. Yawn.

The emasculation of Tank as he becomes increasingly enamoured with Alexis is particularly troubling as it deprives My Best Friend's Girl of a villain. I would have thought that the director Howard Deutch, who made my favourite 1980s teen movie Pretty in Pink, would have known better. In the same way that he ultimately made the rich socialite Blane into the empathetic love interest in that film, he wants to turn the tables in My Best Friend's Girl so that we'd prefer Tank to get the girl by the end of the movie. It's a gambit that simply doesn't work, mainly because Cook lacks the necessary acting chops to convey a sufficient balance between venom and charm to make such a huge audience volte-face possible.

Luckily the film has a brilliant turn from Alec Baldwin as Tank's misogynist father, Professor Turner, to lift proceedings. It soon becomes clear that Baldwin's women's studies lecturer is the master to his son Tank's pupil. He is a man without a single redeeming feature and it's through his dastardly manner that we're supposed to sympathise with his son. The trouble is that Baldwin delivers a performance so far above this film that all our sympathies lie with him. His turn raises the following questions: how did he get involved in such rubbish? Did he sue the person who pulled the wool over his eyes? Why couldn't he be the star of this movie?

I just hope that Baldwin was paid handsomely for giving Cook an acting lesson. Even though his cameo is over in the time it takes to say "Glengarry Glen Ross", Baldwin is the reason the film gets two stars rather than one. Devoid of any heart, My Best Friend's Girl relies on schoolboy toilet humour to maintain interest. Did I miss something? I thought jokes featuring characters debasing themselves in public stopped being funny around the time of American Pie 3. Trying to push the limits of good taste does not require much comedic talent.

As for Hudson, she is catastrophically bad and desperately needs to get herself off the rom-com treadmill if she is to have a career that is half as good as that of her mother, Goldie Hawn. It's high time Hudson gave the dumb blonde act a rest before she becomes the girl no one wants to see.

Updated: April 9, 2009 04:00 AM

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