Ricky Stanicky (2024, dir. Peter Farrelly)

by | Mar 7, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 113 mins

UK Distributor: Prime Video

UK Release Date: 7 March 2024

WHO’S IN RICKY STANICKY?

Zac Efron, John Cena, Jermaine Fowler, Andrew Santino, Lex Scott Davis, William H. Macy, Anja Savcic

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Peter Farrelly (director, writer), Jeff Bushell, Mike Cerrone, James Lee Freeman, Brian Jarvis and Pete Jones (writers), Paul Currie, Michael De Luca, John Jacobs and Thorsten Schumacher (producers), Dave Palmer (composer), John Brawley (cinematographer), Patrick J. Don Vito (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A group of friends hire an actor (Cena) to play their fictional childhood pal…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON RICKY STANICKY?

Since professionally splitting from his brother Bobby, Peter Farrelly has clearly tried steering as clear as he can from the world of his and Bobby’s wide range of juvenile gross-out comedies, including There’s Something About Mary, Shallow Hal and Dumb and Dumber (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Dumb and Dumber To). However, even when he’s winning critical acclaim as well as the Best Picture Oscar for Green Book, Peter has been unable to fully shake off people’s perceptions of him as someone with more outlandishly comedic roots.

Perhaps this is why – after that brief period where he and his more dramatic work were simultaneously the toast of Hollywood and the bane of Film Twitter’s existence – he’s come crawling back to the field with Ricky Stanicky, a solo directing gig that very much feels like his and Bobby’s previous work, even without his brother by his side. At this point, though, Peter’s mature sensibilities have more than settled in, rendering many of the sillier and childish gags more reserved than one would expect to see from either Farrelly brother.

The film focuses on three friends – Dean (Zac Efron), JT (Andrew Santino) and Wes (Jermaine Fowler) – who, since childhood, have placed the blame for their immature behaviour on a fictional friend named “Ricky Stanicky”, which often gets them off scott-free when having to tackle any real adult responsibilities. However, when one “Ricky” incident involving a boys’ trip to Atlantic City goes too far, the friends are faced with a choice: either fess up to their respective partners about their lifelong lie, or find a new way to convince them that Ricky Stanicky exists once and for all.

Because there wouldn’t be a movie if they went with the first option, they decide to hire an actor to play Ricky at an upcoming event with sceptical friends and family members. They go with Rod (John Cena), a washed-up alcoholic who’s resorted to performing masturbation-themed covers of popular songs at a rundown bar, and he soon inhabits the role of Ricky Stanicky to hugely pleasing effect – in fact, it may be too pleasing a performance, for Dean and his buddies soon find that they cannot get “Ricky” out of their lives in both their professional and personal lives.

There’s a reason that this project, which has six (!) credited writers, has been circling around for years in development hell (to where, at different points, Jim Carrey and James Franco were approached for the role that Cena now plays), and that’s because it’s not that bad a concept. There are plenty of comedic possibilities that arise from this wild situation, where a lowly individual is hired to become a completely fictional person for the benefit of a unified body, only for him to be far better at his job than anyone, even himself, could have predicted.

However, there are two problems here: one, Hit Man does this concept far, far better, and it’s not even out until June on Netflix; and two, Ricky Stanicky doesn’t have enough fuel in its gag tank to make the most of that golden concept. The film relies heavily on humour that is, to put it bluntly, very late-90s to early-2000s, when filmmakers like the Farrelly brothers felt that the funniest sources of laughter were bodily fluids, constant swearing, dogs humping each other in the missionary position, and endless dick jokes (hell, one of the very first scenes in the movie is a kid mimicking a dog getting a erection). The style of comedy is no different to any of Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s previous movies together, only it now feels more like a relic of a time when the Hangover movies were considered the pinnacle of frat-boy humour, which has become stale and outdated in a more sensible present.

Although Peter Farrelly does manage to maintain a reasonably consistent comedic tone throughout, you can also tell that it’s the same guy who did Green Book and The Greatest Beer Run Ever (the latter also with Zac Efron), because at times Ricky Stanicky leans into some rather heavy dramatic fare that feels somewhat out of place in a rowdy comedy. There’s a pretty serious reveal that one of the main friends grew up in an abusive household, which has effected some of his relationships as an adult, and while it’s thankfully never played for laughs, it comes well after a point when he and several other characters really should have learned their lesson, so to bring up something like that fairly late in the game feels like Farrelly letting his more tender side dictate to the viewer that we’re supposed to root for these people, even after they’ve consistently lied to their loved ones across several years because they can’t face up to their responsibilities.

Other movies by the Farrelly brothers certainly had their own heartfelt moments, but they felt earned because you enjoyed being around those characters a lot more, whereas here you’re not as comfortable supporting a group of men who, again, have been effectively gaslighting everyone they know by inventing a fictional scapegoat for their boyish antics. The moment, therefore, feels a little unearned in a film that also has William H. Macy, as Efron’s boss, unintentionally “air-dicking” during public speeches.

Despite its heavy and often glaring faults, Ricky Stanicky isn’t a complete failure. Though most of the jokes don’t land, some of them do get a decent chuckle, and a lot of that is down to John Cena, who runs away with the entire film in a performance that allows him to wholly embrace his natural talents as a versatile and highly charismatic comedic actor. It also ends on an admittedly sweet note, which doesn’t completely go against the regular structure of a concept centred around a little white lie, but shakes it up enough to where the right lessons are learned while not entirely vilifying those in the wrong, as often tends to be the case in most third-acts.

It’s certainly not without a few bright spots here and there, but Ricky Stanicky cannot help but feel to be, quite literally, Farrelly-lite.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Ricky Stanicky is an attempted throwback to the kind of juvenile gross-out comedies that director Peter Farrelly would make with brother Bobby, but its stale and outdated gags, as well as some out-of-place sentimentality, prevent the promising concept from fully succeeding, despite a heavily committed turn by John Cena.

Two out of five stars

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