Every Yuletide seems to require at least one dumb comedy, and this year’s seasonal quota is now officially filled with “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.” Made by many of the personnel involved with Adam Sandler’s last hit, “Big Daddy,” the pic is a sign that the Sandler comedy empire is expanding and reaching new depths of pure gross-out stupidity. The combo of sunny Malibu locales and constant toilet humor is an extremely odd mix for the holidays, and not likely to serve as a counterprogramming turn-on for auds tired of the current spate of long, serious films. But “Deuce” will get lots of solicitations in the video store.
Before the story has even kicked into gear, a rapid series of moronic gags establishes the impression that neither tyro helmer Mike Mitchell nor screenwriters Rob Schneider and Harris Goldberg care if anything makes sense so long as it roughly resembles Sandler’s previous comedies and plays to the crowd that loved “There’s Something About Mary.”
Like many of Sandler’s sad-sack heroes, Deuce (Schneider) is a barely lovable semiliterate out of step with everyone else, and who in this case has a passion for tending tropical fish. A gigolo named Antoine (Oded Fehr), whom poverty-stricken Deuce jealously observes one day escorting a beautiful woman in his sleek sports car, helps Deuce with his Koi-pond cleaning, and ends up asking him to care for his ailing Chinese tailbar lionfish in his Malibu pad while he’s out of the country.
Deuce is a comic loser who’s hard to warm up to: It’s never easy to detect whether Deuce is a dunce or just innocently clueless, such as when Antoine has to explain what a gigolo does. He quickly violates Antoine’s two house rules — don’t answer his phone or use his sports car — but these are nothing compared with Deuce’s hapless workout on Antoine’s exercise equipment (in a visual pun on “American Gigolo” that younger auds won’t get), which leads to his destruction of his host’s fabulous aquarium. Fish tank repairman Neil (Andrew Shaifer), whose every line is a homoerotic double entendre, demands $6,000 to fix it, leaving Deuce with few options.
A call (from the uncredited Brenda Vaccaro) to Antoine’s number leads to new career opportunities, and Deuce becomes what is possibly the world’s first temp gigolo. A mix-up at a bar with hooker Claire (Gail O’Grady) develops into the pic’s only funny exchange. After the first of comedy’s two silly fight scenes, which lampoon “The Matrix,” Claire tips Deuce off to pimp T.J. Hicks (Eddie Griffin), who hires Deuce as his new “man-whore.”
The pic’s one saving grace is its habit of wasting no time, so in quick succession Deuce encounters a list of T.J.’s mostly ridiculous clients: the ultra-obese Jabba Lady (hip-hop radio DJ Big Boy in drag); Norwegian giant Tina (Torsten Voges), so tall that her head is always offscreen; Tourette’s syndrome-afflicted Ruth (Amy Poehler), whose uncontrolled cussing alone would earn pic’s R rating, even apart from the volume of anal and bathroom jokes; pretty Kate (Arija Bareikis), whom Deuce falls in love with despite her artificial leg; and narcoleptic Carol (Deborah Lemen), who snoozes even while bowling.
Deuce’s encounters were clearly the inspiration for the script, but they play mainly as disconnected skits, linked only by the irritating intrusion of LAPD Detective Fowler (William Forsythe). In the worst overacting of his career, Forsythe is especially victimized by the comedy’s inability to know when gags have played themselves out.
Most telling, though, is pic’s almost pathological fear of sexual content, the last thing to expect from a comedy about an amateur gigolo. Multiple opportunities for laughs between the sheets are regularly hijacked by pic’s preference for dumb physical routines. What in an earlier era could have been a wry, smart sex comedy about an out-of-step hero finding his way is instead strictly for boys under 16 who think the idea of a guy screaming in public about his “thin dick” is funny.
“SNL” vet Schneider, here graduating into the star role after several second- and third-banana assignments, survives fairly well, with his sad, round eyes and friendly manner offsetting pic’s tendency for below-the-belt rudeness. Griffin amuses with most of pic’s funky lines, even while his running hot-tub gag grows tired. Bareikis’ sweetness contrasts with excessively broad playing by most of the women, though Big Boy’s fans will be in a laughing fit watching his act.
Mediocre tech credits betray this as a low-budget studio item.