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'Ricky Stanicky' Review

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March 6, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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After climbing the top of the mountain with the Best Picture-winning Green Book and disastrously trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle with The Greatest Beer Run Ever (while not good, also not as bad as the reviews would lead you to believe), writer/director Peter Farrelly has returned to what he knows best: the lowest of lowbrow comedy. Hey, the world has and will always need garbage collectors. It’s a respectable profession in the real world and can be one within cinema as long as you bring a certain kind of panache to it.

Farrelly used to have that in his earlier days with his brother Bobby, an indescribable reverent for his characters through insanely grotesque and politically incorrect humor. You couldn’t pass through a junior high lunchroom without hearing someone quote Dumb and Dumber or There’s Something About Mary. But nowadays, the stenchy punchlines and childlike antics feel worn out. You’ve (hopefully) grown up, but these guys haven’t, and I’m not sure what new audience they think is out there to pick up the pieces.

Ricky Stanicky feels like that last grasp for the fans of yesteryear, the ones that Farrelly thinks he left behind with his last two features. It’s the kind of movie whose first joke is a kid dressed as a dog with a boner for Halloween who is holding a giant bag of poop that’s about to set on fire. Those first fifteen seconds are a good enough sample for you to decide just how far you’re going to crawl down this garbage chute.

The good news is that the first act is by far the roughest stretch, with the rest becoming smooth sailing in comparison. That flaming poop prank ends up burning down half of a house instead of just a front step; leaving Dean (Zac Efron), JT (Andrew Santino), and Wes (Jermaine Fowler) in a world of trouble once someone finds out who did it. Some tampering with the evidence by Dean makes their friend Ricky Stanicky the main suspect. However, Ricky isn’t a real person, he’s just someone they made up to use as a get-out jail-free card. And even twenty years later, they’re still cashing those checks. A coworker’s wedding they don’t want to attend? Ricky is getting out of rehab and they need to pick him up. JT’s baby shower? Ricky is about to have surgery and they need to be by his side. And while everyone thinks they’re being good friends, the trio fulfills their childhood fantasies while avoiding any of the boring chores of adult life.

Wait, skipping out on your own son’s baby shower? These guys must really be scumbags, right? Well, yes and no. Farrelly wants you to know that he thinks these guys are degenerates in principle. Of course, lying to your spouses repeatedly for years is bad. But what if, in some twisted way that really only worked in the '90s (and it was a bit of a stretch then too), these guys learned some overly simplistic lesson about growing up and accepting responsibility? Still not good enough? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. Any platitudes that Farrelly and his five other credited screenwriters try to churn out of this are extremely underdeveloped, making the efforts to excuse this behavior almost laughable to the point of parody.

But no one is going into this material for life lessons. It’s the “Warning: An R-rated Comedy” tagline that’s pulling in the tickets, or in this case, clicks since this is a Prime Video exclusive. That’s where John Cena comes in, doing most of the heavy lifting as a “man who’s been addicted to steroids since the age of two.” He’s a scummy actor the trio hires to become Ricky for a day after their families start doubting his existence. But he takes it too far, going full method and becoming Ricky forever. Cena is a skilled comedic actor, and he takes full advantage of the less-than-savory tasks he’s required to do, one of which requires him to sing X-rated covers of famous ‘80s songs. Seeing how far he’s willing to go makes up for a lot of other rougher stretches.

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