*1/2 (out of 5)
February 22, 2008
Larry the Cable Guy as LARRY
Jenny McCarthy as CONNIE
Ivana Milicevic as MADELEINE
Yaphet Kotto as ALONZO MOSELY
Peter Stormare as ARTHUR GRIMSLEY
Eric Roberts as WILFORD DUVALL
Joe Mantegna as DOC SAVAGE
Directed by: Charles Robert Carner
BY KEVIN CARR
Unlike many film critics (and a good portion of the general population), I don’t find Larry the Cable Guy to be abhorrent. In fact, I find him quite funny at times. I even enjoyed his first foray into the star vehicle, “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.”
With that said, this guy does need some better writers and filmmakers on his side. He’s a tough act to swallow on the big screen, especially when he’s buried in a February release. But after a lesser film in last year’s “Delta Farce” and now the off-the-radar “Witless Protection,” he’s making a fast decent into the garbage heap.
I will give Larry credit, though. He knows where his bread is buttered, and he’ll probably make a nice living for a few years in these low-budget, low-rent, low-brow comedies. As long as he doesn’t try to make his redneck version of “Gangs of New York,” he’s going to be a cash cow for the folks at Lionsgate.
The only time you’ll hear the term “Academy Award” in the same paragraph as Larry’s name is when people mention that “Witless Protection” is being released in the theaters on Oscar weekend. And he seems to be okay with that.
The film stars Larry as a deputy sheriff in a podunk Mississippi town. For some inexplicable reason, he’s dating the still-very-sexy Jenny McCarthy, who is the Daisy-Duke-wearing waitress at the local diner. One day while drinking his milkshake (another bizarre Oscar connection to this year), Larry witnesses a beautiful woman (Ivana Milicevic) being escorted into the diner by men in black. Larry deduces (rather incorrectly) that she’s been kidnapped, and it’s up to him to save her.
Soon, Larry gets the lady to trust him, and they discover she is being hunted by the man she’s testifying against. This leads Larry through a maze of weird movie moments where he plays polo, practices karate and farts a lot.
In many ways, this movie reminds me of an Uwe Boll flick, and not just because it stinks. It has a similar slate of terrible, forced dialogue. There’s also moments of complete incoherence in the story. In fact, the film jumps around in tone and setting so much, it’s like watching someone flip channels for 90 minutes while Larry and Ivana move from show-to-show like a bad John Ritter movie.
Additionally, it appears that Larry has something to leverage over some of the actors in the film. It’s not that I’m surprised that Jenny McCarthy’s in the flick. But people like Joe Mantegna has reached a new low in acting, even for the guy who pioneered the crappy direct-to-DVD release.
And don’t get me started with Peter Stormare. It’s as if Larry forced him to be even a worse actor than he is. If you thought Stormare’s accent was bad in “Armageddon,” brace yourself for this film. I’ve heard better accents at two-bit Renaissance festivals.
I can’t say I’m surprised at how bad “Witless Protection” was. But I was surprised at how little excitement there is for this film, even from Larry’s core audience. Because Lionsgate didn’t screen this movie for anyone, I had to pay to see it. And for the first time since I saw “Leprechaun” in 1993, I was utterly alone in the movie theater. That’s a feat to accomplish on Oscar weekend.