Movie Review: John Cena laughs in average comedy ‘Ricky Stanicky’

Your tolerance for the latest Peter Farrelly comedy "Ricky Stanicky" may depend on how funny it is to mistakenly imitate a sex act. The premise barely affects the plot. Several leads remark that William H. Macy, a buttoned-up financial industry CEO, does it when he speaks. They assume that's why he can't close a transaction and give it a moniker that may be a drinking game. The film considers this comedy gold. You might.

Three pre-teen boys who accidently set a house on fire quickly choose “Ricky Stanicky” (it rhymes). They wanted to burn dog crap on a house's doorway that didn't distribute Halloween candy, not conduct arson. They leave a jacket with a bogus name, Ricky Stanicky, when the fire spreads. 

Zac Efron, Andrew Santino, and Jermaine Fowler play him as their imagined fourth friend and fall man into maturity. They risk losing their alibis when suspicious partners and a demanding mother-in-law demand Ricky's appearance. The lads hire a washed-up Atlantic City star impressionist named “Rock Hard” Rod (John Cena) to play Ricky for a day.

Farrelly, who with his brother established 1990s broad humor with “Dumb & Dumber,” “Kingpin,” and “There’s Something About Mary,” did not come up with this notion. The humor was always immature, but it was done so joyfully and with such unabashed passion that it was hard not to chuckle. Their comedy have aged poorly, but they were of a bygone era (they were like the younger, nicer sibling of the early aughts frat boy mindset).

Sadly, “Ricky Stanicky” feels like one of those 2000 comedies that intended to be “There’s Something About Mary.” Given that the script has been circulating Hollywood for 15 years, it makes sense. James Franco was considered for the title role.

 Jim Carrey followed a few years later. This development trip is one reason the final version had six screenwriters (Jeff Bushell, Brian Jarvis, James Lee Freeman, Peter Farrelly, Pete Jones, and Mike Cerrone). I don't know where the good ended and the bad began, but three ampersands in film credits are rarely good.

Farrelly's trademarks—a dog and duck, inadvertent drugging, a comedy circumcision, and an album of pop songs rewritten as masturbation—are present, but the charm is lacking. Maybe this comedy should have been made when it was written? Was it doomed for 2024 revival?

One issue is that it's filmed like a yogurt commercial. All seems set. All look like actors. Females are surface. No matter how brilliant the illumination, nothing appears real. Well-performing Cena is the bright point. Like his character, who excels as Ricky Stanicky, Cena commits and gives Rock Hard Rod unexpected depth and pathos. He should perform comedy again soon. Can it save the film? Not me.

The Motion Picture Association rates “Ricky Stanicky,” an MGM/Amazon Studios film streaming on Prime Video Thursday, R for “language throughout, some drug content and sexual material.” Runtime: 112 minutes. 1 1/2 stars out of 4.

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