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'Ricky Stanicky' review: John Cena elevates forgettable gross out comedy

Courtesy of Prime Video


Following an Oscar win for “Green Book” and the dramatic turd “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” filmmaker Peter Farrelly (once again ditching his brother, Bobby) is trying to reclaim his gross-out comedic roots with the raunchy “Ricky Stanicky.” Working alongside his “Greatest Beer Run” lead-star Zac Efron and featuring the always game John Cena, “Stanicky,” won’t be regarded among Farrelly’s best work, in fact it’s probably near the bottom, but the one-two punch of two commendable “Bro-y” performances, especially from the latter, elevate an otherwise forgettable comedy that’s littered with one unbelievable sequence after the next. 

And the film requires a smorgasbord of disbelief to truly get on board. It follows three childhood best friends: Dean (Efron), JT (Andrew Santino), and Wes (Jermaine Fowler) who, after a halloween prank goes wrong, invented a fictional pal named Ricky Stanicky who could shoulder the blame for any trouble the trio found themselves in. Attempted arson? It was Stanicky! Who wrecked the car? Stanicky, that’s who! 

It’s done the gang well over the years, especially into adulthood where they rely on their old friend to get them out of family gatherings or other non-essential functions. They’ve even established a phone number, an instagram, and a “bible” wherein they document Stanicky’s timeline of events to keep up with continuity. But after missing an important milestone (thanks to Stanicky having testicular cancer), the boys face pressure from their families to put a face to the name. 

Enter Rod (Cena), a struggling actor living in Las Vegas who headlines a show where he retools 80s hits into songs about masterbation (“jizz james” as he calls them) and middle schoolers everywhere rejoiced. Nevertheless, the hiring of Rod leads to all types of crazy antics, but Cena, bless his soul, brings an earnest confidence to the role. Rod takes the gig very seriously (he’s read Stanislavski!) and has done the research required to make him seamlessly blend into the boys' lives. Perhaps a little too much. Even going as far as to get hired by Dean’s boss (William H. Macy) under the guise he’s a knowledgeable financial guru. 

It’s a wild premise that’s really hard to wrap your head around. These four are supposed to have been friends for decades and yet, nobody has ever met Stanicky? Wouldn’t Macy’s character, who offers Rod a $250k salary, had done a background check on his new hire? Such trivial thoughts aren’t why anyone watches a movie like “Ricky Stanicky” but they do expect a laugh and, mainly thanks to Cena’s commitment, there’s a few chuckles in between all the chaotic madness, which, at one point, sees Rod (as Stanicky) circumcise a newborn. 

The chemistry among the three bros simply isn’t there: Efron, Fowler, and Santino are missing that spark and it really befalls on Cena to pick up the slack. Thankfully, he continues to cement himself as a formidable character actor and even sells the somber, emotional moments baked into the script. The six (!) writers certainly didn’t come up with the best material, but they should be so fortunate they had someone as agile and willing as Cena to pick up the pieces and try to make lemonade with oranges. 

Grade: C+ 

RICKY STANICKY debuts on Prime Video, Thursday March 7th


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