My Best Friend's Girl
2008, R, 101 min. Directed by Howard Deutch. Starring Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Diora Baird, Lizzy Caplan.
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008
Say what you will about comedian-turned-actor Cook, the man is a force of nature, a tornado of verbal gymnastics and physical contortions who will do anything for a laugh, sparing neither his body nor the scenery (nor the limits of common decency) to get what he wants. He’s like Vince Vaughn with Tourette's syndrome, blanketing My Best Friend’s Girl with scatological monologues delivered at such a rat-a-tat pace that it’s all we can do just to hear everything he’s saying; forget actually taking it all in. That's fine, because while Cook may traffic exclusively in lowbrow humor, he’s apparently smart enough to know that what he’s saying is of such minimal comedic value that how he says it is the only hope this movie has. Cook plays Tank, a self-described “professional asshole” who gets paid by recently dumped men to take out their ex-girlfriends and treat them like garbage – the idea being that after a date with him, those girlfriends will come running back to their exes, convinced that what they left behind couldn’t possibly be as bad as what awaits them. Never mind that most women would probably swear off men for months, if not years, after being subjected to one of Tank’s misogynistic emotional assaults (which feature visits to strip clubs, life-threatening car rides, food poisoning, and all manner of sexual harassment); in a world of rejected and boorish men, Tank is a miracle worker, a hero devoted to serving the public good. His newest client is his roommate and best friend, Dustin (Biggs), a sentimental schlemiel with a heart of gold who loses his girlfriend, Alexis (Hudson), after confessing his love only five weeks into their relationship and then glomming on to her like a wounded puppy when she rebuffs him. Biggs has been playing a variation of Dustin since American Pie, and he has the character down to a science: the stammering self-deprecation, the physical clumsiness, the wide-eyed look of childlike bewilderment and desperate sexual confusion. It’s a formula that serves him perfectly when – like clockwork – Alexis’ heart begins to melt for Tank, who, meanwhile, begins to acknowledge the unplumbed depths of his own heart. In other words, for all its hundreds of supposedly shocking profanities, its dozens of MTV-ready verbal slap-downs, its mean-spirited mile-a-minute war-of-the-sexes banter, and its subtle but very real disdain for women (one has to wonder about screenwriter Jordan Cahan), My Best Friend’s Girl’s most offensive quality is its predictability. Any schmuck with a typewriter and a dirty mouth can test the limits of good taste; it’s something else entirely to push the boundaries of narrative possibility and emotional empathy.