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  • Writer's pictureSaxon Whitehead

'Ricky Stanicky': John Cena Brings the Funny in Mediocre Comedy


The arc of Peter Farrelly's career has been an interesting one, as he and his brother, Bobby, got their start making slapstick comedies back in the 90s, and continued to churn them out for the next couple of decades. However, Peter went solo in the late 2010s and directed Green Book, a more prestige-y film that was seen as a departure for him, given that it tackled more serious subject matter. The film would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, becoming one of the most surprising and most controversial winners in Oscar history. He followed this up with The Greatest Beer Run ever, which trod similar ground in terms of the style and the type of movie that it is. But now, Peter Farrelly has returned to the genre of film that he is better known for with Ricky Stanicky. The film has been a long-gestating project, as talks of it being made go back as far as 2010, and names such as Jim Carrey and Joaquin Phoenix being rumored to star in it. It has been a long road, but Farrelly finally stepped in to helm the film, and brought Zac Efron and John Cena on board to star in it. The result is more or less what you would expect, as it has a lot of the hallmarks of the Farrelly Brothers' other films and fits in with their brand of humor. It is the type of film that probably would have done alright at the box-office if it were released in the 2000s or even the early 2010s, but considering that it is a streaming release and it is being released in 2024, it doesn't quite have the same appeal that it could have had. Not to mention that it is a bit stretched out and falls a little flat in places. That said, if you're looking for a big, dumb comedy, Ricky Stanicky just might scratch that itch.


A group of childhood friends (Zac Efron, Andrew Santino, and Jermaine Fowler) have been maintaining an elaborate lie ever since they were children, and his name is Ricky Stanicky. Initially created as a scapegoat when the trio accidentally started a fire when they were younger, the three have kept the impression that Ricky is a real person going for decades, complete with a fake Instagram account and a "Bible" that has every detail that has been added to the lie. When they find themselves in a situation that requires the real Ricky to make an appearance, they hire Rod (John Cena) a down-on-his-luck, alcoholic actor to play him. However, things get out of hand when Rod turns out to be a little too good at his job, and charms everyone around him, making things even more difficult for the three friends.


For a film like this to even have a snowball's chance of working, you have to have someone charismatic and likable to play the Ricky Stanicky role. John Cena is a good fit for the role, as he is game for just about anything, and is able to play a convincing meathead and a more gentlemanly type rather well. Cena is one of those actors who is generally good at comedy, even if the material is lacking. He commits to the bit in almost anything he's in, and considering that he is playing a character that is committing to a bit, this is certainly in his wheelhouse. He is easily the MVP here, and gets the biggest laughs of the whole film. He is definitely one of those comedic actors where when he's good, he's really good, and that is certainly the case here.


Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the rest of the cast. It's not that everyone else is "bad", per se. But they tend to fade into the background quite a bit. Andrew Santino and Jermaine Fowler are pretty much doing the same schtick they usually do, while Zac Efron feels so muted and frankly boring. Efron has proven himself to be a great actor, and can handle comedy fairly well, but the script isn't doing him any favors here. He essentially plays the straight man here, and he just isn't doing too much to make the character pop in any way. It's a bit disappointing, and definitely not his finest hour. I will say that William H. Macy isn't half bad, mainly because he's a seasoned pro, but he's maybe the only performance besides Cena that makes any significant impression.


What frustrates me about the film is that on paper it is a funny premise, but it is so drawn out that it loses steam quickly. It takes a while for us to even get to the main gambit of the film, but when we finally do, the film takes off a little. Beyond that, however, the film is mainly a collection of gags, some good, some painfully weak. The film has six credited writers on it, so it could be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. It certainly has some bits that pay off, but it also has some that feel unneeded. This could have been a tight, effective comedy, but it insists on letting some jokes play out way too long, and including extraneous details that have little bearing on the film itself (An attempt at drama that comes late into the film is especially unneeded, and comes out of left field). It's a shame because there are some good bits in here, and if it was cut down just a little, it could have been pretty solid, but alas, it just ends up being mediocre at best.


Ricky Stanicky is the exact type of comedy that the Farrelly Brothers became well known for, and while it makes for a fun throwback, it does get a bit stale at times. It at least doesn't feel antiquated or completely pointless, but it definitely doesn't come together all that well. It's about middle of the road in terms of Peter Farrelly's work, which is at least better than his last few comedies, but it is still disappointing because he can certainly do better. It's an okay effort, though, and as far as modern comedies in a similar vein go, it could have been worse. Ricky Stanicky is worth watching to see John Cena's performance and to get a couple of good laughs, but it doesn't have too much to offer beyond this.


Rating: 2.5/5

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