|Tired of big-budget skin puppets warbling onscreen about shipwrecks, supermutants and big fat Eddie Murphy clones? Looking for some grainy Indie film stock, some uneven performances, and subject matter the Harvey Weinstein Cartel wouldn't touch with a ten-foot Shakespearean accent? We've got the flick for you, but be prepared. Chuck & Buck isn't exactly what it appears to be, and neither is it much like what its backers would have you believe.
Buck (Mike White, also the film's writer) is a 27-year-old pre-adolescent stuck in his childhood, taking care of his sick mother, who dies at the film's outset. At her funeral, he meets his boyhood friend Chuck and begins to fixate on him. For Buck, Chuck (who now goes by Charlie) represents the time of his innocence and unreality. Meanwhile, Charlie has left his past "where it belongs," and is a successful record industry executive in L.A., with a beautiful fiancee, a pretty cool house, and flat, annoying hair.
An interesting set-up? Yep. A more interesting premise than "Martin Lawrence Gets In A Big Fat Dress"? Uh-huh. But Chuck & Buck isn't the art-house-friendly "dramedy" its scant ads claim. There's precious little that's funny in this film. (Hey, kind of like The Replacements, right Keanu?)
Mostly, this movie is uncomfortable. White does an interesting job with Buck (think of that pre-adolescent character 'Stuart' from Mad TV), refusing to make him even slightly appealing, saddling him with a pre-teenís starry eye movements and silly mouth positions. He's immature, with a capital 'I,' with his clear aim forgetting his mother's passing by stalking Charlie at work, at home, at parties and in bed with his fiancee. Ah, yes. Bed. C & B's worst-kept secret is its homoerotic content: Chuck and Buck evidently had an extremely close friendship in their childhood years, one which Buck desperately wants to relive, if only for the innocent time of which it reminds him.
Oh, if only it all worked. The film wants to be subtle, but its strokes are barely too broad. One scene, in particular, sticks out like a (ahem) sore thumb: Buck's play session with a child actor he meets in L.A. ends when the boy lights a firecracker that accidentally goes off in his hand. Hm. A young boy with a spherical object that discharges unexpectedly in his fist? Wonder what that's supposed to mean.
Chuck & Buck is close, but it's just barely unlikeable. The problem, we suppose, is that neither Buck, the frustratingly obsessed anti-hero, nor Chuck, the object of his ancient affections, are appealing. They're blithe, self-centered people. That said, we found ourselves hoping against hope that Buck would be all right. There are numerous moments of potential violence. Will Buck suffer a Midnight Cowboy fate? Will he discover his own sexuality without doing himself irreparable harm? For some reason, we cared.
And that, we suppose, says something. We may not have loved Chuck & Buck, but imagine that. Going to the movies, and actually caring? Is it officially still summer?