The raunch-to-romance ratio isn’t up to Judd Apatow level — the current gold standard for R-rated romantic comedies — and the third act bespeaks much second-guessing and waffling on the part of everyone involved. Still, despite bowing on the low end of expectations with some $8 million, “My Best Friend’s Girl” has plenty of down-and-dirty laughs and should have a long shelf life as homevideo fare. The inevitable “unrated director’s cut” should sell especially well, even though it’s difficult to imagine how it could be more foul-mouthed than the current theatrical version.
Top-billed comic-turned-actor Dane Cook is almost too credible for comfort in the lead role of Tank, a customer-service telerep who moonlights as “an asshole” — his own self-description — for fun and profit. In the world according to scribe Jordan Cahan, any fellow who’s dumped by his girlfriend can win her back simply by paying Tank to treat her to the worst date of her life. One night out with the purposefully obnoxious and sexually aggressive lout, and the g.f. will run back to the guy she left behind.
Tank is so adept at this that his services are sought by Dustin (Jason Biggs), his roomie and best friend. Hopelessly smitten with Alexis (Kate Hudson), a beautiful co-worker, Dustin proposes to her barely five weeks into their relationship. But Alexis isn’t ready to proceed so quickly, so she rebuffs his overeager overtures and Dustin calls Tank.
Complications arise, however, as Alexis — actively encouraged by her randy roommate, Ami (Lizzy Caplan) — realizes that, at this particular point in her relatively unexciting life, what she really wants isn’t Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Now. That is, a stud muffin who makes booty calls without demanding commitments. Which, of course, makes Tank the wrong man in the right place at the right time.
Not surprisingly, Tank, heretofore a swaggering sexual buccaneer, quickly evolves into a reluctantly lovestruck suitor when the tables are turned on him. For an impressively long stretch, though, director Howard Deutch (who took a considerably more demure approach to romance way back when he helmed “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Pretty in Pink”) manages to distract auds from the predictability of the plot with fusillades of profanely funny dialogue and some playfully sexy chemistry generated by Cook and Hudson.
It also helps that Alec Baldwin gleefully steals scenes right and left as Tank’s father, a middle-aged, unapologetically sybaritic college professor who feigns feminist attitudes to score with women of all ages. (“Guilt,” father warns son, “is just one more thing trying to asphyxiate us while we’re having sex.”)
Somewhere around the two-thirds mark, however, “My Best Friend’s Girl” starts to cloud over with an air of indecision, suggesting the filmmakers were torn between the commercial imperative of providing an upbeat resolution, and a near-uncontrollable urge to go for broke with a cynical (but more dramatically plausible) conclusion. Final scene feels like a tacked-on compromise that may have been added after unsuccessful preview screenings.
Cook is most amusing while emphasizing his sardonic edginess, a trait that may eventually serve him well in some anti-heroic (or downright villainous) dramatic role. Better still, he establishes an effectively fluid give-and-take with Hudson, enabling her to strike an attractive balance of comedy and carnality.
Drab lensing of Boston locations is a minor annoyance throughout.