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Witless Protection

If you need a GPS unit to find your own backside, you'll be laughing uproariously at "Witless Protection," a movie that's far more interesting politically than dramatically -- or, God knows, comically.

With:
Deputy Larry Stalder - Larry the Cable Guy Madeleine Dimkowski - Ivana Milicevic Alonzo Moseley - Yaphet Kotto Arthur Grimsley - Peter Stormare Wilford Duvall - Eric Roberts Dr. Rondog "Doc" Savage - Joe Mantegna Connie - Jenny McCarthy

If you need a GPS unit to find your own backside, you’ll be laughing uproariously at “Witless Protection,” a movie that’s far more interesting politically than dramatically — or, God knows, comically. Pic opened below expectations to $2.2 million, likely drawing primarily on the 20% or so of Americans who still approve of President George W. Bush, which seems to be its target audience given the Muslim jokes, black jokes, liberal jokes, swipes at minority Homeland Security employees and such sparkling analogies as “quicker than Angelina Jolie adopting jungle pygmies.”

There’s an air of desperation surrounding this outing by Larry the Cable Guy, none of whose previous efforts at bigscreen blue-collar comedy (“Delta Farce,” “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector”) had quite the nasty edge of “Witless Protection.” Not only is Deputy Larry Stalder the comedian’s stupidest creation, he’s easily the most bilious. That he’s boorish, crude and disgusting goes without saying. That he threatens a Muslim motel clerk with “Gitmo,” or tells a character played by Yaphet Kotto to “come over from the dark side,” pushes “Witless” into a new realm for LCG: He’s repulsive, of course, but unlikeable, too.

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When Deputy Larry spots Madeleine Dimkowksi — note the combo slur of her last name — being escorted through his burg by a team of FBI agents, he immediately jumps to the ridiculous conclusion that’s she’s being kidnapped. So he kidnaps her back. And despite her protests, he insists that FBI agent Alonzo Moseley (Kotto) is a dirty cop, working for corrupt tycoon Arthur Grimsley (Peter Stormare), against whom Madeleine is supposed to testify. That Larry turns out to be right is just one of many insulting things thrust upon the audience.

There’s a weird, reactionary cultural subtext going on in “Witless,” wherein everything that smells of progressive or even remotely artistic is automatically deemed malevolent. Madeleine (played by Ivana Milicevic) will eventually come around to finding something charming in Larry, but consider her cell phone’s ring tone: Beethoven. Moseley’s plays Wagner. Larry’s plays the theme to “Green Acres.” Guess who’s the good guy?

Jenny McCarthy, a talented comedienne ordinarily, has the very dubious honor of playing Larry’s girlfriend Connie, whom he treats to the usual litany of chauvinistic asides, anatomical references, jokes about sex acts and what seems to be a general acceptance of female inscrutability and dumb-bunny-dom. As ridiculous as McCarthy’s character is, it’s nothing compared to the mad scientist played by Joe Mantegna, whose presence here is utterly inexplicable; it’s as if someone were holding his children hostage.

One can only hope that “Witless Protection” is targeted at a vanishing species of American Neanderthal. In the meantime, perhaps Larry and his accomplices at Lionsgate could take some sensitivity traning.

Witless Protection

Production: A Lionsgate release presented with Parallel Entertainment Pictures of a Shaler Entertainment/Samwilla production. Produced by J.P. Williams, Alan Blomquist. Executive producers, Tom Ortenberg, Thomas Busch. Directed, written by Charles Robert Carner; story, Alan Blomquist, Carner.

Crew: Camera (color), Michael Goi; editor, Marc Leif; music, Eric Allaman; production designer, Cabot McMullen; art director, David Tennenbaum; set decorator, Lisa S. Wolff-Mandziara; costume designer, Susan Kaufmann; sound (Dolby Digital), Scott D. Smith; supervising sound editor, Frederick Howard; re-recording mixers, Matthew Iadarola, Gary Gegan; stunt coordinator, Rick Lefevour; associate producers, Maggie Houlehan, Jennifer Novak; assistant director, John Nelson; casting, Junie Lowry Johnson, Libby Goldstein, Deborah George, Sharon King. Reviewed at Lionsgate screening room, Santa Monica, Feb. 22, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Deputy Larry Stalder - Larry the Cable Guy Madeleine Dimkowski - Ivana Milicevic Alonzo Moseley - Yaphet Kotto Arthur Grimsley - Peter Stormare Wilford Duvall - Eric Roberts Dr. Rondog "Doc" Savage - Joe Mantegna Connie - Jenny McCarthy

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