Aimed squarely at adolescents who might find “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” too intellectually taxing, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” is a slapdash slacker/stoner comedy that appears to have been made by the proudest underachievers this side of Bart Simpson. Pic is transparently thin — even at just 83 minutes, it feels desperately padded — but fitfully amusing. Much like last year’s “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” it might wring righteous amounts of coin from with its target aud, if only because there’s nothing else remotely like it in the holiday-season movie marketplace.
Wispy plot, neatly encapsulated by the title, serves primarily as an excuse to move central characters into setups for sight gags, single entendres and similar silliness. Hearty-partying Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott) awake one morning too wasted to remember what happened the night before. So they decide to retrace their steps, even though that means starting out on foot because … well, go back and check out the title.
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The good news: The guys obviously had a wild and crazy time with Christie (Kristy Swanson), a sultry stunner who normally wouldn’t give either dude the time of day, and almost all the dancers at a kitty-cat-themed strip joint. The bad news: One of the strippers is a tough-talking, transsexual lap dancer who wants to know where the guys hid a briefcase stuffed with stolen money.
Additional complications arise as Jesse and Chester are approached by nerdy UFO cultists, leather-clad Nordic guys and self-described “hot chicks” in clingy jumpsuits, all of whom assume the two dudes know the whereabouts of something called “The Continuum Transfunctioner.” Or something like that.
But wait, there’s more: Jesse and Chester wear neat clothes, get chased by ostriches, speed around in a really cool sports car and hog the spotlight while busting a groove in a musicvideo dream sequence. Best of all, Jesse gets to place his hand on Christie’s ample bosom, causing him to giggle like someone auditioning for a lead in the touring company of “Beavis and Butthead on Ice.”
Latter scene is typical of pic’s sniggeringly juvenile approach to sex. Acres of cleavage are displayed, and the jumpsuited hotties offer unfulfilled promises of “oral pleasure,” yet no one ever gets — well, you know, naked. Even so, “Dude” often pushes as hard at the boundaries of the PG-13 rating as “Scary Movie” shoved at the constraints of R-rated respectability. Elsewhere — specifically, when a giant extraterrestrial babe pursues our heroes — “Dude” seems to indicate that, beneath all the snickering, adolescent males basically are afraid of women. This and other gags may indicate how much this comedy is on the same wavelength as its aud.
Working from an unapologetically scattershot script by TV sitcom vet Philip Stark, Danny Leiner directs “Dude” with more energy than inventiveness. Pic lacks visual flair — except for the clever opening credits, tech values are pedestrian — and even the more amusing sight gags are shot and edited with a glaring lack of pizzazz.
Pic’s funniest bit is borderline subversive: While stopped at a traffic light, Jesse and Chester engage in nonverbal one-upmanship with a couple in another car. Like a similar gag in “BASEketball,” the joke is all the funnier for the way it indirectly acknowledges the not-so-subtle gay subtext of these wacky male-bonding misadventures.
Scott, whose appearances in “American Pie,” “Road Trip” and this comedy qualify him as a genre staple, is ingratiatingly goofy as Chester, the slightly more uninhibited of the two lead characters. Kutcher (of TV’s “That ’70s Show”) plays Jesse with a touch of sweetness and a vague hint of vulnerability, which serves the character well. Supporting players do what they have to do without unduly embarrassing themselves.