"CHUCK & BUCK"|
95 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, July 14, 2000 (SF)
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Starring Mike White, Chris Weitz, Lupe Ortiveros, Beth Colt & Paul Weitz
This film is on the Worst of 2000 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 20%|
LETTERBOX: NOT NECESSARY
Boring, grating and pretentious. Emotionally callow...And no different on the small screen.
VIDEO RELEASE: 12.19.2000
Homosexual simpleton stalks childhood friend in awkward, uncomfortable festival circuit flick
Ninety-five minutes of feeling creeped out and uncomfortable passes for indie flick entertainment in "Chuck and Buck," a movie in which the audience supposed to sympathize with a stalker just because he's naive and slow-witted.
Buck, you see, never grew up. He's a 27-year-old whose mind gave up around age 11. He wipes his nose on the back of his hand; sucks on lollypops all day; makes collages with construction paper cut-outs, sparkles and Elmer's Glue. And when his mother dies, he becomes consumed by an obsession with his "best friend" Chuck -- a kid he grew up with but hasn't seen in 15 years.
The two childhood pals are reunited at the funeral, and for the simple, infantile Buck nothing has changed. He's ready for the two of them to run through sprinklers or play Chutes and Ladders.
Chuck, on the other hand, is now a bland fellow of negligible emotion who goes by "Charles." He's a record executive in L.A. and he recognizes that Buck lives in a Candyland world of his own creation.
After an awkward, uneasy reunion (Buck is oblivious to the discomfort), Charles says rhetorically "you should come visit" and leaves expecting (and hoping) to never see Buck again.
But Buck latches on to Charles' invite. Having no other connection to the frozen-in-childhood world he inhabits, he cashes in his savings, drives to California and begins shadowing Charles, peeping into his windows and concocting a simpleton plot to break up Chuck's engagement and get back his lost childhood friendship.
Written by Mike White -- a pasty, blonde-lashed actor who also plays Buck with admirably goony, twitchy realism -- "Chuck and Buck" is a film that expects to get by purely on its cinema vérité stylings. As long as it maintains an assumed air of coarse nobility, it doesn't seem to matter to White and director Miguel Arteta ("Star Maps") that all of the characters are either irritating or obtuse, and that watching the monochromatic Charles (Chris Weitz) squirm each time Buck drops by his home or office makes you wish the milksop dullard would just haul off and slap the guy already.
The film moves from irritation to absurdity when Buck channels his obsession into an acrimonious but pathetically simplistic play called "Hank, Frank and the Witch" (Buck blames Chuck's indifference on his fiancée, see) and gets it produced at a back-alley theater.
How this comes about is too preposterous to go into here (as is the friendship Buck forms with the talentless actor he casts as a thinly disguised Chuck). What's even more absurd is the fact that after exuding so much effort to rid themselves of Buck, Charles and his fiancée (Beth Colt) actually come to the play and sit through the whole thing, even after it's readily apparent the piece is Buck's playground-mentality condemnation of their relationship and that it implies a homosexual tryst between the boys as children -- an angle the film then follows to an unlikely conclusion.
"Chuck and Buck" has been winning accolades at film festivals, and I'm at a loss to explain why. Aside from Buck's underdeveloped, child-like nature that makes him virtually intolerable, none of the characters have an iota of human credibility. The story is disquieting, unpleasant, tedious and grating. The shaky-cam style and bad video transfer to film are so deliberate they smack of pretension. And the repetitious soundtrack gets stuck on one song so annoying it's almost enough by itself to drive you out of the theater. The tune goes, "Oodly, oodly, oodly, oodly, oodly, oodly, fun, fun, fun...yeah."
Maybe I've just had my fill of shoestring art films that use sexually aware simpletons to make their audience fidget uncomfortably in their seats (see "The Idiots," "Mifune," "julien donkey-boy" or any of the other films from the Danish Dogme95 filmmakers' collective).
But to me the only interesting thing about "Chuck and Buck" is the fact that brother Chris Weitz (Chuck) and Paul Weitz (who plays the bad actor Buck hires for the play) are the writers of "Antz," "American Pie" (which they also directed) and Eddie Murphy's upcoming "Nutty Professor" sequel.
I can only assume they did this movie as a favor to someone.