Is Bucky Larson destined for cult film status or the $5 bin at Walmart? The answer might be both.
I like cult films. Whether it’s classics like The Dark Backward or Begotten, cult films represent a genre that is not easy to define. For me, these films underperform and are ridiculed by the press, only to find life later in the home entertainment market. Their following grows far beyond their initial run in theatres, culminating in midnight showings with avid fans (albeit a small but dedicated set) acting out lines as if they themselves starred in the film. The greater these storylines become more preposterous, the closer they get to achieving cult status. Give me a Human Centipede over Friends with Benefits any day!
Based on these parameters, Bucky Larson: Born to Be Star is certainly a candidate. It survived in theatres for a mere two weeks and made only $2.3 million before being canned after its second week of release. It was panned unmercilessly by critics and fans alike, being dubbed one of the worst films of the year. Cult films are not for everybody; reaction can be somewhere between shock and a strong desire to turn off the TV and erase the film from one’s memory. So, is Bucky Larson a cult classic in the making, or just a poorly-made, uninspired film which deserves its critics?
Bucky (Nick Swardson) is bagging groceries in a small town supermarket, when he learns that his parents (Edward Hermann and Miriam Flynn) were once porn stars. They have kept a box of their ‘work’ for Bucky to see when he turned 50; but, the buck-toothed, naïve, and virgin Bucky, who never attended high school because the town was too small to support one, is determined to make it in ‘the industry’ just like mom and dad. He leaves for Hollywood to realize his destiny, meeting Kathy (Christina Ricci, Sleepy Hollow) at a local Hollywood diner, which Bucky is convinced is visited by celebrities. Kathy finds Bucky a roommate in her apartment complex (played brilliantly by comedian Kevin Nealon), who quickly becomes Gary: The Roommate from Hell. Gary is classic passive-aggressive, with great lines throughout the film: his constantly berating of Bucky lends to some of the film’s funniest scenes (“I don’t sh*t where I shower!”).
After being insulted by porn actor Dick Shadow (Stephen Dorff, Cecil B. DeMented) at a party, Bucky gets in with a washed-up director (Don Johnson, Machette), who agrees to shoot some scenes with Bucky after learning about his parents. Unfortunately, Bucky has not received any gifts of manhood from his father, and the first shoot is doomed to failure, until the blouse comes off, leading Bucky to ‘express’ his affection for the actress by ejaculating all over the room. Swardson’s infamy is later posted on YouPube.net, which becomes an overnight sensation. “Every small d*ck out there’s been waiting for this!” realizes Johnson.
From there, Bucky is destined for greatness, winning every prize at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas, as well as Kathy’s heart. When it’s time to lose her virginity, Kathy melts the end of a short straw and gives it to Bucky who exclaims “It fits!” (cue off-screen coitus). But when a strung-out Johnson (no pun intended) announces to Kathy that Bucky will now start filming scenes of actual intercourse, she dumps him and moves out of the apartment complex. It’s up to Bucky to win back Kathy’s heart by whisking her off on a horse from a previous porn shoot. “I need that horse! He’s the star in another shoot I’m doing in Germany, Horsec*ck Island!” yells Ido Moserri (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan). It’s the secondary performances of Moserri and others which provide funny moments and keep the story going. These hilarious one-liners are littered throughout the story like a couple who’s been shagging all weekend and have been too forgotten to clean up all the condoms. Think Beerfest and Baseketball rather than Bridesmaids.
If there’s one issue I had with the film, and I can’t believe I’m saying this because I should have a ton of other story-related issues, it’s the transfer of the film to Blu-Ray. Originally presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Bucky Larson sports a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 that is unfortunately littered with errors. Outdoor shots involving skies appear completely blotted out, black shadows have little detail, and even indoor day-lit scenes bleed into the colors of window frames. However, wrinkles on clothing and skin pores are sharp, leading me to surmise that director Tom Brady possibly meant for outdoor scenes to be presented in this manner. Still, the continued presence can get on one’s nerves: there’s almost a haze, or even a filter inserted into these scenes, and no amount of adjustment on my Plasma would correct for the error. The transfer is not a total loss: indoor scenes (which make up the majority of the film) display colors which are vibrant and sharp. Night scenes are clear as well. But it’s the persistent issue of outdoor day scenes which hurts this transfer. And while you’re not watching this for sweeping cinematic views, videophiles will notice the difference.
If the video quality is somewhat suspect, Bucky Larson’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is not a problem. Dialogue is clear, and cheesy 80’s music from bands like Journey resonates throughout the film. The surround side is littered with sparse effects, but we’re not here to be wrapped in digital sound as Bucky goes wild in his shoots. This track gets it done, stays out the way of itself, and compliments the dialogue just fine. There is also a French track which is also presented in 5.1 DTS-HD.
Another issue with this release was the paltry extras, which still manage to be funny and enlightening. Given the horrible box office results, it was probably lucky that any supplements appear at all. Still, a good interview with director Brady about the film’s taboo subject, or a discussion of the porn industry and its lack of less-than-hung actors, would have been funny and could rounded out an otherwise ho-hum release. All the extras are in high-definition, which is a welcome feature. It’s a mixed reaction for sure. Don’t blink or you might miss them all:
• Laughter Is Contagious (1080p, 5:16): Deleted scenes
• Behind The Teeth (1080p, 11:21): A background on several characters from the film
• Gary: Tough Customer (1080p, 4:14): A great interview with Kevin Nealon, who entertains Ricci between shoots
• Bucky Sparkles (1080p, 2:29): A featurette showing various cuts of Swardson ‘expressing his affection’ during the shoots
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star is so ludicrous, so unbelievable in its premise, that it could never have established itself as a mainstream film. Co-producer and co-writer Adam Sandler must have known this from the early stages. But that’s the joy of it as well. Like most cult films, its enjoyment factor will really be based on your expectations. Have exactly ZERO expectations, short of it not playing in your Blu-Ray player, and ignore everything you have heard about it, and the film is hilarious and cheesy fun. Is it a Black Dynamite or Army of Darkness? No, but it’s definitely worth a rental; however, its paltry supplements and mediocre transfer make me relunctant to recommend it as a purchase unless it shows up in the $5 bin at Walmart. On the other hand, you might consider owning this title, as I suspect its taboo subject will keep it from further pressings. In that way, its appeal might grow to one day achieving cult status. For now, just see the film and decide if a small, poorly-hung man with a bowl haircut ejaculating all over the place is funny to you.