Directed by: Howard Deutch (The Whole Ten Yards)
Starring: Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Diora Baird, Lizzy Caplan
One’s first impulse upon watching My Best Friend’s Girl may be to conclude that Mae West was on the money back in 1936, when the fictional movie star she was playing in Go West, Young Man got a close-up look at her fan base and remarked that her studio boss “was right when he said we were makin’ pictures for a lot of maroons.” After some reflection, you’ll probably conclude that this was exactly the approach being taken by those responsible for My Best Friend’s Girl. A basic contempt for the audience is really the only possible explanation for this witless, charmless, stupidly plotted attempt at sleaze-encrusted romantic comedy. And like Miss West’s character, those involved in its creation are in no position to be taking the intellectual high ground.
In its favor, I can think of two things that can be said of My Best Friend’s Girl. First of all, it isn’t quite the torturous abomination I had actually anticipated. No, I think the worst I can say is that it merely induces that dull pain at the back of the head that I believe to be the result of brain cells crawling away to die of embarrassment. Secondly, there’s a certain scientific value to the film in the study of relativity, since it conclusively proves that Dane Cook looks a lot better when put alongside Jason Biggs. This isn’t to say that the film wouldn’t have been vastly improved if Kevin Costner had showed up in his character from Mr. Brooks (2007) and smacked Cook in the face with a shovel, but it’s something.
Cook stars as Tank. Why there’s a person named Tank is never explained. Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy as concerns Cook’s career. In any case, Tank is a major sleaze of this or any other season. He makes a living by “meeting cute” with other guys’ estranged girlfriends in order to date them, behave like an obnoxious pig and horrify the women into returning to their exes out of gratitude that said exes aren’t Tank. Ah, but you see, Tank isn’t really like this—nor like the person he pretends to be when he’s not on duty. No, no, no. Tank is a closet romantic, a genuinely nice guy hiding behind a facade of smug cynicism. How do we know this? Because he cries while watching Ghost (1990), causing him to mutter, “I’m such a fag,” as he dabs at his eyes with a tissue.
Things get complicated when Tank’s roommate Dustin (Biggs), a creepy, uptight chronic masturbator with a huge porn collection, wants to secure his friend’s services to convince co-worker Alexis (Kate Hudson) what a mensch he truly is and that she should marry him. (It never occurs to anyone that Dustin would eventually have to explain to Alexis just how it is that his best friend and the world’s crudest human being are the same person.) Against his better judgment, Tank takes the job. Naturally, Alexis falls for his bad-boy crassness—even if only sexually—and nothing goes as planned. In other words, while Dustin, the creepy specimen of Boobus Americanus, frets himself into a funk, Tank and Alexis fall in love and inadvertent betrayal ensues. Why, it’s so simple that it practically writes itself!
Of course, the complications become ever more complicated in order to set up the penultimate reel of boy-loses-girl glumness required by the genre. Most of the complications are predictable and predictably unfunny. Tank’s efforts to offend a date with a religious bent by taking her to a pizza joint called Cheesus Crust is momentarily amusing, but it’s merely the setup for Tank’s first real step to redemption as a nice guy, and his nice guy is, at best, only marginally believable, despite numerous bouts of desperation to deepen his character.
The real problem with the movie is that it never makes us like these people—assuming we even accept them as people. In fact, they don’t seem like people at all, merely obnoxious cardboard characters. They dutifully go through the motions of a screenplay that thinks nonstop swearing is inherently witty, while adhering to the conventions of a genre that requires a light touch and something other than a lout, a creep and a dimwit at its center. Piling the pop songs on the soundtrack doesn’t help, especially when the question isn’t whether or not the Cars’ song “My Best Friend’s Girl” will show up, but how many times it will be used to prop up the movie. Surely, a drinking game is in the offing here. Rated R for strong language and sexual content throughout, including graphic dialogue and some nudity.