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Good Luck Chuck

Those who said "yes" to "Good Luck Chuck" doubtless did so emboldened by visions of "Wedding Crashers" -- a hard-R romantic comedy with a matrimonial hook.

Charlie - Dane Cook Cam - Jessica Alba Stu - Dan Fogler Reba - Ellia English Goth Girl - Sasha Pieterse Joe - Lonny Ross Carol - Chelan Simmons

Those who said “yes” to “Good Luck Chuck” doubtless did so emboldened by visions of “Wedding Crashers” — a hard-R romantic comedy with a matrimonial hook. Here, a guy is renowned because women find true love after sleeping with him. Yet for an aspiring romp awash in sex and nudity, director Mark Helfrich’s directing debut proves painfully flaccid — a movie that simultaneously squanders its leads and its DVD extras. Dane Cook sells out arenas with his stand-up act, and Jessica Alba is, well, Jessica Alba, but once “Chuck” exhausts their devoted bases, this doesn’t promise to bring much good luck to Lionsgate.

Introduced as a kid playing a spin-the-bottle game that goes wildly wrong, the grown-up Chuck (Cook) is now a successful dentist. His girlfriend dumps him, however, for being unable to say “I love you,” and, at a former girlfriend’s wedding, he’s toasted as the good-luck charm that propelled her to a better relationship.

At that wedding, Chuck meets Cam (Alba), a penguin specialist at the local aquatic park who’s as accident-prone as she is beautiful. This leads, briefly and awkwardly, to an extended interlude that plays like an entirely different movie — with Cam suffering a series of pratfalls and mix-ups that usually leave Chuck one step from the emergency room, which does nothing to cool his ardor for her.

Around this point, though, the movie veers back to its ostensible theme, the one writer Josh Stolberg embellished from the experiences (that is, having more than one woman get hitched not long after dating him) of pic’s associate producer Steve Glenn.

As the legend of his magical touch grows, and Cam proves strangely aloof, Chuck gradually bows to servicing women, in part at the urging of his life-long friend Stu (“Balls of Fury’s” Dan Fogler), a lascivious cosmetic surgeon with a mammary fixation.

Ultimately, most everything between the wedding and the credits feels like a lot of juvenile nonsense to keep Charles and Cam apart, as he fears bedding her will bring his gift/curse to bear and lose him the one girl he’s truly loved. It also results in a wildly uneven tone, with sappy stretches interrupted by madcap bursts, many of them vaguely misogynistic (including more than one sequence involving obese women) and possessing scant appeal beyond pubescent boys who’ll need somebody else to buy them a ticket to get in.

Helfrich has worked as an editor on the “Rush Hour” series, but this maiden directorial effort could have used some strategic cuts. And while Cook is undeniably attractive and charismatic, the range required to sell his hexed lead handcuffs him, while Alba — however adorable — can’t overcome the lack of consistency surrounding her character, whose unlucky streak conveniently comes and goes depending on where we are in the story.

Fogler and Lonny Ross (of NBC’s “30 Rock”), as Cam’s bong-hitting brother, deliver a few laughs, but hardly enough to provide the movie a consistent pulse. Shot in Canada, the overall production is equally modest, providing no sense of location other than the uninspired aquatic park setting, where the movie even stoops to a penguin-poop gag.

Perhaps the most consoling thought for all involved, in fact, would be one adapted from “Chuck’s” central premise — namely, better luck with the next movie.

Good Luck Chuck

Production: A Lionsgate release of a Lionsgate and Karz Entertainment production. Produced by Mike Karz, Barry Katz, Brian Volk-Weiss. Executive producers, Tracey Edmonds, Russell Hollander, Ogden Gavanski, Michael Paseornek. Co-producers, Cece Karz, Karen Russell. Directed by Mark Helfrich. Screenplay, Josh Stolberg.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Anthony B. Richmond; editor, Julia Wong; music, Aaron Zigman; music supervisor, Jay Faires; production designer, Mark Freeborn; art director, Tony Wohlgemuth; set decorator, K.J. Johnson; costume designer, Trish Keating; sound (Dolby Digital-DTS-SDDS), Darren Brisker; supervising sound editor, Glenn T. Morgan; associate producer, Steve Glenn; assistant director, Richard Coleman; casting, Matthew Barry, Nancy Green-Keyes. Reviewed at National Theater, Los Angeles, Sept. 19, 2007. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Charlie - Dane Cook Cam - Jessica Alba Stu - Dan Fogler Reba - Ellia English Goth Girl - Sasha Pieterse Joe - Lonny Ross Carol - Chelan Simmons

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