Dude, Where’s My Car?

(Danny Leiner, USA, 2000)


One of the rules found in modern scriptwriting manuals is that two lead characters should never be entirely alike. However, it has become a hallmark of a certain kind of dumb-dude comedy to have two heroes – as in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) or A Night at the Roxbury (1998) – who, at least in their behaviour, are dead ringers.

Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott) in Dude, Where’s My Car? are, beyond their hair colour, pretty hard to tell apart. To compound the gag, their girlfriends are twins. The point of this doubling is revealed in a strange but entirely typical gag where our male heroes park alongside a glamorous yuppie couple necking in an expensive car. To go one better, they start smooching as well.

Dude, Where’s My Car? Belongs to the cycle of what the film industry calls trash comedies. For novelty’s sake, this one reaches back to the wacky aliens-among-us movies of the ’80s, such as Earth Girls Are Easy (1989). The plot spins around a piece of intergalactic technology – in Star Trek-speak, a continuum transfunctioner – which Jesse and Chester acquire in the course of a forgotten, wasted night.

For the most part, director Danny Leiner and writer Philip Stark wheel out a predictable panoply of trashy elements: breakdancing strippers, awesome parties, public urination, tattoos, mean dogs and (in the story’s lingo) stoners with boners. It was apt, if regrettable, that the faulty sound system at the multiplex where I caught it turned every bass note in the musical score into a flatulent episode (this sometimes got more laughs from the crowd than the movie itself).

This is a relatively gentle film of its type. Despite endless promises to our dim dudes of erotic pleasure from various women (and men dressed as women), it is a deliberately tame, sexless romp. The pubescent, entirely male comedy is fixed squarely on breasts – big ones about to burst out of wet T-shirts or alien jump suits. A scene involving a home for blind kids reaches the apogee of titty-groping humour.

Despite some inspired moments – such as a parody of the modern convention whereby characters are introduced with a freeze frame and their names typed on the screen – Dude, Where’s My Car? is not among the best trash comedies of recent times. Its look has a disconcerting, telemovie drabness, and its jokes never kick into high gear. American Pie (1999) is a far tastier item.

MORE Leiner: Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

© Adrian Martin April 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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