‘Ricky Stanicky’ – Crude, Rude and Refreshing

'Dumb and Dumber' director Peter Farrelly's comic return boosted by John Cena

Dwayne Johnson proved professional wrestlers could do more than just appear in major motion pictures.

They could graduate to the A-list.

Is it John Cena’s turn?

Sure, the former wrestler has starred in plenty of films over the past decade. He’s never embarrassed himself during the transition from the ring to the big screen. It’s his work in “Ricky Stanicky” that puts him on another level.

He doesn’t just carry the new Peter Farrelly comedy. He owns it.

Ricky Stanicky - Official Trailer | Prime Video

Three lifelong pals have a surefire way of getting out of any jam. They blame their fictional friend “Ricky Stanicky” whenever they paint themselves into a corner.

Good ol’ Ricky never lets them down.

Except they play the Ricky Card once too often, and they’re forced to create Ricky out of thin air to keep the lie alive. They hire an X-rated lounge singer named Rod (Cena) to “become” Ricky for their family members.

Except Rod, drying out after years in a drunken stupor, is too committed to the role. Now, the friends must figure out a way to make this Ricky disappear, and fast.

The chums (Zac Efron, Andrew Santino and Jermaine Fowler) represent the kind of dude bros Hollywood once embraced. It might as well be Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill or any other Apatow repertory player under Farrelly’s command.

The script, which comes from too many scribes to tally up, is tighter than expected. Smaller character tics hit home, and the story embraces R-rated tropes and defies them. A third-act reveal turns a potential threat into a sly misdirection.

Farrelly knows how to wring laughs out of even mediocre bits, and the comic timing through the film never flags. The three friends have legit chemistry, something that’s missing in some bro comedies.

The story’s setup, alas, takes far too long to boil over.

Once it does, Cena is large and in charge. The friends serve as his straight men, setting the hulking actor up to crush every scene.

“Ricky Stanicky” isn’t afraid to tell bawdy sex jokes, the kind sure to trigger select critics. More often than not they’re funny, and that’s what matters.

Like all good R-rated romps, “Ricky Stanicky” has its heart in the right place. A key monologue delivered by Fowler captures that spirit, but the story surrounding it mirrors those intentions.

Some Adam Sandler comedies have a mean-spirited underbelly. Not “Ricky Stanicky.”

William H. Macy proves a good sport as a corporate tycoon who sees something special in Ricky. The character actor may never escape his character’s key visual gag, one that can’t be described here.

No harm. No foul. It’s just a comedy. If you’re offended by it, that’s on you.

We still wish the film had more Big LaughsTM, the kind Farrelly once uncorked with regularity with “Kingpin,” “Dumb and Dumber” and other classics. At least no one’s apologizing for their White Privilege or dropping pronouns to signal their allyship.

Baby steps.

HiT or Miss: “Ricky Stanicky” isn’t an instant classic, but it’s sly, funny and it lets John Cena loose in the best of ways.

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