Dude, Where's My Car?

(2000)  1/2 Pg-13
83 min. 20th Century Fox Distribution. Director: Danny Leiner. Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Garner, Marla Sokoloff, David Herman.

/content/films/3203/2.jpgTo put it bluntly, Dude, Where's My Car? doesn't work as a movie at all. As a comedy, it's tone deaf. As a story designed to hold interest, it's a miscalculation. And it manages to make likeable actors gratingly annoying. But I will give this to screenwriter Philip Stark, director Danny Leiner (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), and their stars: they don't go halfway. Dude, Where's My Car? is the full stupid, and movies like this one have a dangerous siren call to them. One imagines, "This looks so stupid that it has to be a helluva lot of fun." Lotsa luck to you: outside of an altered state, Dude, Where's My Car is only slightly better than the worst sitcom you've ever seen, thanks to Stark's lame attempts at weirdness.

In the vein of the stoner comedy (or the idiot comedy), Dude, Where's My Car? puts front and center a pair of slack-jawed party animals. Jesse (Ashton Kutcher, then best known for That '70s Show) wakes in a haze to discover he can't remember the events of the previous night. Neither can his roomie and best bud Chester (Seann William Scott of American Pie). Hence the immortal question. No, not "To be or not to be?" You know the one.

Anyway, their quest to piece together their lost evening and reclaim Jesse's car takes the duo on a fantastic journey involving $200,000 in stolen money, a pot-smoking dog, a School for Blind Boys, breakdancing strippers, assaultive ostriches, a cult in hooded bubble-wrap jumpsuits, and teams of aliens (some leather-jumpsuited women offering oral pleasure, others looking and sounding like escapees from a Swedish gay disco) demanding something called The Continuum Transfunctioner, "a very mysterious and powerful device."

The film will probably be best remembered for none of these things, but rather for a French kiss between the leads during a face-off with Fabio. So, y'know, they have something to look forward to in their "Lifetime Achievement Award" clip reels. Then there's the sketch-comedy scene from hell, in which the boys attempt to get drive-through at a place called "CHINESE FOOOOOD." Ah, remember the days when all a comedy had to do to get a laugh was have someone say, "Egg Foo Yung"? Those were the bad old days. Let's move on.

I know, the absurdity of it all sounds perversely entertaining, and the filmmakers are aware it's bad, which usually helps. But Leiner never succeeds in converting bad to camp, and his attempts to do so only dig a deeper hole. For example, Stark self-consciously has the characters constantly reiterate their plans of action, but Leiner doesn't know how to make this gag play. He seems also to have instructed his actors to be purposefully bad, as a preemptive strike against criticism ("See, we know it sucks!"). But the ploy backfires, making a truly embarrassing resume line item for Kutcher, Scott, Jennifer Garner and Marla Sokoloff (as the bizarrely loyal girlfriends), and Kristy Swanson as "Christie Boner" (sigh). The film's amusing attempt at coining a new word for the youth lexicon ("Shibby!") is useful now only as a sort of secret "'I Survived Dude, Where's My Car?' code.

Tucked into the folds of an impossibly flabby 83 minutes are cameo roles for Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Brent Spiner (Star Trek's Data), Hal Sparks (Queer as Folk) and Andy Dick (NewsRadio). They were probably hoping for a cult classic dumb comedy, a hybrid of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Dumb and Dumber, and Repo Man. But in the end, only one question remains. C'mon, say it with me. Dude, where's the laughs?

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio 5.1

Street date: 8/26/2008

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Fox's Blu-Ray debut of Dude, Where's My Car is a mixed bag. Fans will get the film looking better than it ever has on home video, with a lively and accurately rendered transfer and ideal, lossless audio. But nearly all of the bonus features from the previous DVD edition have been jettisoned, including a commentary by Leiner, Kutcher, and Scott; extended scenes; making-of featurette; music video; and TV Spots. All that remains is the film's "Theatrical Trailer" (2:22). It's a head-scratching decision, as it's difficult to imagine anyone making a Blu-ray upgrade with none of these features included, and for a movie with limited visual appeal, the DVD seems a better value to new adopters. Seems to me Fox would have made more money by springing for the extras, but perhaps neither lead actor wanted to sign off on the use of bonus features for a movie they feel is better left forgotten.

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Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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