My Best Friend

Starring Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs and Alec Baldwin. Directed by Howard Deutch
Running Time: 100 mins
Rated: Rated MA15+ (strong sexual references and coarse language)

Crudity runs rampant in this vehicle for standup comic and sometime actor Dane Cook. He plays Tank, who glories in being a serial seducer and lowlife where women are concerned. They flock to him like moths around a flame, but he gets his kicks by treating them shamefully.

And he has turned it into a nice little sideline. For a fee, he will help out ordinary mortals whose relationships are foundering. He will bed their girlfriends and terrorise them on a date from hell so that they will rush back gratefully to the boyfriends they were about to dump for being boring.

When nerdy Dustin (Jason Biggs), his best friend and room mate, is rejected by the object of his affections, Alexis (Kate Hudson), Tank undertakes to do a "tanking' job on her. But, in ways mysterious known only to screenwriters, Alexis is bowled over by the 'anti-Cupid', and he by her; not the scenario Dustin was hoping for.

If it weren't so unpleasant in tone, with indiscriminate sex treated more as retribution than affection, the film is a fairly slick production. Director Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, Grumpier Old Man) handles it proficiently, Kate Hudson has a deft style in light comedy and Cook is entirely convincing as the odious Tank. Alec Baldwin makes a strong impression, too, as Tank's father, a Professor of Women's Studies who - like father, like son - debauches his female students while espousing the feminist cause. And Jack N. Green's camerawork makes very handsome use of the city of Boston.

But the reliance on bawdy talk and crass behaviour for laughs (perhaps under the influence of Cook, whose overpowering characterisation is the driving force of the film) overshadows the clever moments in the script by first-time screenwriter Jordan Cahan. For example, the swipe at the way big companies brush off complaints, with Tank ironically employed to engender "customer satisfaction' at a call centre, is effective satire.

Catholics would be quite right to take exception to a scene set in a pizza parlour called Cheesus Crust, where pizzas are made in the shape of the cross, a grotesque parody of Da Vinci's The Last Supper hangs on the wall and the waitresses' patter burlesques prayers. It is blatantly offensive.

Let's hope that this cynical, insensitive view of relationships does not point the way to the future of Hollywood romantic comedy.

Hoyts Distribution Out October 9

Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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