What would “It’s a Wonderful Life” look like if Clarence the angel were replaced by the human personification of George Bailey’s sentient penis? It’s a question very few people have ever asked, but that doesn’t stop Huck Botko’s tiresome comedy “Bad Johnson” from providing more than adequate answers. Only occasionally rising to the level of sophomoric, and never even approaching the relative Freudian profundity of King Missile’s alt rock hit, “Detachable Penis,” the film manages to be an often uncomfortable experience without fully embracing its own bad taste, starting with an inherently insane premise and somehow steering it through the most basic of romantic comedy paces. Though curiosity will likely lead a few its way, overall prospects look quite flaccid.
Former “Twilight” heartthrob Cam Gigandet stars as Rich Johnson (get it? Johnson?), a callow 28-year-old personal trainer who, within the first 15 minutes of the film, loses two consecutive girlfriends (Jamie Chung, Kiley B. Moore) thanks to his rampant horndoggery. Chastised by a straight-arrow buddy (Kevin Miller), to whom he blames his “mind of its own” member for leading him astray, Rich arrives home to find himself dubbed “Douchebag of the Month” by no less an authority than the website Douchebag-Asshole-Cheater.com. (According to real life research, said domain is still available for a mere $10.98, representing a missed marketing opportunity for “Bad Johnson’s” promo team.)
“I wish my dick would just leave me alone,” Rich sighs while falling asleep. He gets his wish the next morning, when he wakes up to discover that his genital region resembles that of a Ken doll, while a nameless bearded slacker claiming to be his penis (Nick Thune) collect-calls him to ask for a ride.
Jeff Tetreault’s screenplay rarely lingers on the biological implications of such a transformation — and when it does, you really wish it hadn’t — presenting Rich’s Penis (as the credits bill him) as something more akin to an autonomous id. He hires prostitutes, visits strip clubs, trashes the house, makes wisecracks and racks up astronomical credit card bills while Rich frets around like a harried parent until finally kicking him out. Freed from his wayward willy, Rich is surprised to find himself much happier, enrolling in ceramics classes and chastely flirting with comely client Lindsay (Katherine Cunningham). Yet it isn’t long before his emancipated phallus once again rears its head, prompting a literal battle between the heart and the loins for Lindsay’s affection.
Dick jokes are plentiful, as one would expect from a film that is itself essentially an 87-minute dick joke, but rarely are they funny. More importantly, rarely are they transgressive or shocking enough to leave a lasting impression; for a movie about a walking, talking penis, “Bad Johnson” is surprisingly risk-averse. The casting also raises a few questions, with Thune taking an oddly languid approach to a role that should be defined by its raging impulsiveness, and Gigandet proving thoroughly bland throughout.