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Bob the Butler

A disaster-prone, serial job-seeker named Bob (Tom Green) finds his calling looking after uptight, single-mother career girl (Brooke Shields) and her kids in only fitfully funny but inoffensive Canuck-Brit comedy "Bob the Butler." Pic probably will have short theatrical career after its October release Stateside.

With:
With: Tom Green, Brooke Shields, Rob LeBelle, Genevieve Buechner, Benjamin Smith, Valerie Tian, Simon Callow.

A disaster-prone, serial job-seeker named Bob (Tom Green) finds his calling looking after uptight, single-mother career girl (Brooke Shields) and her kids in only fitfully funny but inoffensive Canuck-Brit comedy “Bob the Butler.” Though a definite improvement over Green’s self-helmed feature “Freddy Got Fingered,” “Bob” reps yet another underwhelming outing for Blighty helmer Gary Sinyor, who has not yet made good on the promise of his low-budget debut “Leon the Pig Farmer.” Pic probably will have short theatrical career after its October release Stateside, with better prospects as a straight-to-ancillary product for the family market elsewhere.

Good-hearted but utterly useless at everything, Bob Tree (Green) has been trying different careers in the order they appear in the phone book, but he gets fired every time. Having reached the “Bu-C” section of the Yellow Pages, he decides being a butler will be his next venture and signs up for a course with appropriately named Englishman gentleman’s gentleman Mr. Butler (Simon Callow, adding a certain dignity to the one-dimensional role).

No sooner has he graduated than Anne (Shields), a client who once employed and fired him when he was Bob the Babysitter, calls him in desperation to look after her difficult, somewhat neglected children, preteen Tess (Genevieve Buechner) and younger Bates (Benjamin Smith), so Anne can go out on a date with supercilious smoothie b.f. Jacques (Rob LeBelle).

Seeing how easily they can wrap Bob around their fingers, the kids campaign to get Bob employed as the family butler on a permanent live-in basis.

Auds familiar with story setups of this type will quickly see where the pic is going, as Bob comes to replace the kids’ absent father by taking a proper interest in their lives and develops a tentative rapport with Anne, despite the fact that she’s a neurotic cow who makes Tea Leoni’s character in “Spanglish” look like a model parent.

Such predictability would be more forgivable if the gags weren’t so lacking in originality. Comic highpoint is a well-staged and briskly timed scene where Tess, keen to keep Bob in the job, covers up one of his early disasters by using brother Bates as a scapegoat. Otherwise, script’s idea of kindergarten-style funny is to milk laughs repeatedly from Bob’s instinct to stick the address “master” in front of Bates’ name, and have Anne scream loudly when Bob’s pet hamster Rascal gets loose in the house.

Perfs by leads feel similarly by rote, although Brooks continues here to display an underrated knack for comic timing. Green seems to be assaying an Adam Sandler sweet-schmuck schtick, with unimpressive results. Kids are typically drama-school cute but sound over-rehearsed.

Tech credits are pro, but nothing special, with a by-now over-familiar Vancouver standing in for a generic American city.

Bob the Butler

Canada - U.K.

Production: A Rampage Entertainment (Canada)/Open Eye Prods. (U.K.) production, in association with Park Entertainment, commissioned by Aquarius Films. (International sales: Park, London.) Produced by Gavin Wilding, Esther Randall. Executive producers, Gary Rubin, Al Munteanu, Terence S. Potter, Jacqueline Quella, Jim Howell, Simon Barnes, Simon Baxter. Co-producers, Tom Green, Jacquelyn Renner, Chris Atkins. Directed by Gary Sinyor. Screenplay, Jane Walker Wood, Steven Manners, Sinyor, based on a story by Wood, Manners.

Crew: Camera (color), Jason Lehel; editor, Richard Overall; music, David A. Hughes; production designer, Michael Nemirsky; art director, Mervyn Hope; costume designer, Heather Lee Douglas; sound, Tad Nazar; sound supervisor (Dolby), Vincent Watts. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 13, 2005. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Tom Green, Brooke Shields, Rob LeBelle, Genevieve Buechner, Benjamin Smith, Valerie Tian, Simon Callow.

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