Witless Protection

Replete with “something to offend everybody,” in the realms of sex, gender, race, class, and politics, “Witless Protection,” the new star vehicle of Larry the Cable Guy, is Witless Comedy Par Excellence.

There are two kinds of politically correct pictures: bright, funny and witty, like Kevin Smith's earlier work (“Clerks,” “Dogmas”), and silly, bilious and offensive, like the Larry the Cable Guy pictures, though the latest may be his worst and most smartless effort.

Realizing the effects of negative reviews and word-of-mouth, Lionsgate released the film “quietly,” without many advance press screenings, and on Oscar weekend, when many people are more concerned with Hollywood's biggest and glitziest night than with comedies like “Witless Proetction.”

In this variation of the familiar formula, Larry the Cable Guy plays Deputy Larry Stalder, a small town sheriff who unwittingly (as if there is another way for the comedian) gets involved in a high profile FBI case. During a routine day spent patrolling, Larry witnesses a beautiful, classy woman named Madeleine Dimkowski (Ivana Milicevic) being held against her will by four mysterious, black-suited men.

Recognizing the opportunity to become a hero and save the day, Larry kidnaps her, only to learn that Madeleine is actually a key witness in a high-stakes Chicago crime case and her captors are FBI agents assigned to protect her. Madeleine is of course furious, but Larry rightly suspects that the agents are crooked and Madeleine is in danger. As a result, he forces her on a harebrained trip to Chicago, while trying to resolve the mystery by himself.

After the first reel, the saga assumes the shape of a below-routine road movie, during which mismatched couple encounters all kinds of weirdos, including angry FBI agents, quack doctors, and a smaple of Chicago high-society.

You dont expect a comedy to be structurally coherent, but you have the right to expect it to be funny-at least in moments. The screenplay by Charles Robert Carner, based on the story by him and Alan Blomquist, is one messy narrative, consisting of calculated set pieces rather than spontaneous, fully-played scenes.

It doesn't help that the movie is ineptly directed by Charles Robert Carner. I will not be surprised if Carner had watched movies like “48 Hours” and particularly “Midnight Run” repeatedly, for in theory that's the model for his clumsy picture. Carner has scripted and helmed some mediocre and passable TV films (“Red Water,” “Christmas Rush,” and “Louis L'Amour's 'Crossfire Trail'”) but here, he seems to have run out of any inventive ideas and to have lost his basic technical skills.

Following years of stand-up, multiple television specials and two feature films (“Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector” and “Delta Farce”), the Cable Guy continues his blundering in what has become a tired and tiresome shtick, based on his playing the same crude but lovable blue-collar man prone to comic disasters and misadventures.

In “Witless Protection,” you get more of the crude and slob elements of his persona than of its likability. The movie claims the novel but dubious achievement of featuring Larry's first nude act; in one scene, he disrobes and covers his genitalia with a ball cap.

Larry the Cable Guide would like us to believe that his on-screen persona is basically an extension of himself, having grown up in a tiny town (of 1200 residents), dominated by wheat, corn, cows, and pigs. His inspiration still derives from old farmers and their shaggy-dog stories. Question is, how long he can continue rehashing the same, limited range of material and still be a viable player in Hollywood.

Cast

Deputy Larry Stalder – Larry the Cable Guy
Madeleine Dimkowski – Ivana Milicevic
Alonzo Moseley – Yaphet Kotto
Arthur Grimsley – Peter Stormare
Wilford Duvall – Eric Roberts
Dr. Rondog “Doc” Savage – Joe Mantegna
Connie – Jenny McCarthy

Credits

A Lionsgate release presentation with Parallel Entertainment Pictures of a Shaler Entertainment-Samwilla production.
Produced by J.P. Williams, Alan Blomquist. Executive producers, Tom Ortenberg, Thomas Busch.
Directed, written by Charles Robert Carner; story by Alan Blomquist and Carner.
Camera: Michael Goi.
Editor: Marc Leif.
Music: Eric Allaman.
Production designer: Cabot McMullen.
Art director: David Tennenbaum.
Set Decorator: Lisa S. Wolff-Mandziara.
Costume designer: Susan Kaufmann.
Sound: Scott D. Smith.
Supervising sound editor, Frederick Howard;
Re-recording mixers: Matthew Iadarola, Gary Gegan.
Stunt coordinator: Rick Lefevour.

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 96 Minutes.