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Good Old-Fashioned Comedies Like ‘Ricky Stanicky’ Never Go Out Of Style

men sitting around an office in a scene from Ricky Stanicki
Image CreditPrime Video/YouTube

‘Ricky Stanicky’ is a welcome throwback to the comedy movies of yore that could make audiences laugh by being stupid and fun.

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During a relatively gloomy time for movies, “Ricky Stanicky” on Amazon Prime was a pleasant surprise.

First and foremost, it dares to be a comedy at a time when comedies have become an endangered species in popular entertainment. While global markets, woke sensibilities, and changing viewing formats have largely made comedy films a bad bet, “Ricky Stanicky,” a film done in the style of “The Hangover” or “Hot Tub Time Machine,” proves there’s still a place for stories about knuckleheads getting caught up in their idiotic schemes and making fools of themselves. In this case, the scheme is hiring an actor to play a made-up person whom three friends have always used as a scapegoat to get out of trouble.

Moreover, “Ricky Stanicky” actually has a moral message: Be honest. Granted, it’s a basic message, but this stands out from other recent comedies that tend toward the cynical and absurd. Even if ditching the moral message might be truer to life, keeping it brings about satisfaction and gives the movie a point. The film persuasively argues that even the best-kept lies will catch up with someone, and they will ultimately prevent personal growth and damage relationships.

As for the movie’s namesake, John Cena’s portrayal of the fictitious “Ricky” is really funny. He essentially carries the film by playing the role of a failed actor, Rod Rimestead, who makes a living by singing lewd versions of popular songs in a dive bar in Atlantic City. Somehow, despite being a hulking former pro wrestler, Cena can play a lovable loser who elicits sympathy as the other characters half his size tease and dismiss him.

All in all, “Ricky Stanicky” is actually pretty good. It’s a welcome throwback to the comedy movies of yore that could make audiences laugh by being stupid and fun. This makes sense since Peter Farrelly, director and writer for “Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary,” and in more recent years “Loudermilk,” also directed this film. As one might imagine, there is plenty of slapstick and bawdy humor in Farrelly’s latest offering, but not to the point of being disturbingly gross or pornographic. 

Unfortunately, these pleasant surprises are counterbalanced by some expected drawbacks, mainly with the cast surrounding Cena. In line with current fashion, they are diverse, representative, and inoffensive, checking every box. They also happen to be utterly flat, sometimes unlikeable characters who aren’t allowed to be funny. They lack even the slightest chemistry with one another and are more or less forgettable.

This sadly includes Zac Efron. It’s clear his character is supposed to be a foil to Cena’s, but he is totally outshined. His face does not emote, and his character lacks personality. Even if he has been in other comedies such as “Baywatch” and “Neighbors,” he seems better suited to dramatic roles like in the recent film “The Iron Claw,” where he put in a stellar performance. 

By contrast, William Macy is hilarious as the bumbling boss who takes a shine to Ricky. Like Cena, and unlike Efron, Macy has a good time embarrassing himself. In the few scenes he’s in, he and Cena play off one another well and give an idea of what could have been possible with a cast chosen with humor in mind instead of diversity.

Overall, despite the drawbacks, “Ricky Stanicky” is quite watchable and comes at a good time. Hopefully, other films will follow in its stead and get today’s audiences to a better space culturally. Like Ricky Stanicky, we all could be a little more honest, down to earth, and willing to laugh at ourselves.


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