Last Night: Witless Protection at the Block in Orange

Most people wouldn’t bail out of the OC Weekly’s Savviest Singles party early to run and catch a midnight screening of Larry the Cable Guy’s brand new movie WITLESS PROTECTION. But that’s why you have me, and believe it or not, it’s the most fun part of my job. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It will very likely not surprise you that the pun contained in the title of this film is as clever as the humor gets. This is a movie in which an FBI agent is named “Agent Orange,” and a security firm is called Private Maximum Security (PMS, get it?). It is also a movie that begins by playing “Eye of the Tiger,” a cliché that ought to be put out of its misery since PERSEPOLIS came up with the last possible clever variation on its use (no I’m not going to explain that further – go see PERSEPOLIS. It’s damn good. You’ll like it. If you hate subtitles, there’s even an English version coming).

One knows, or ought to know, what to expect in a movie featuring Dan Whitney’s “Larry the Cable Guy” character as its focus. Much bodily function humor, including several scenes in which Whitney will be almost naked and reveling in his own physical grotesqueness; mild jokes at the expense of foreigners, liberals, and snobs; and copious country music references. Unfortunately, what you can’t count on is the enthusiasm of his stand-up act – Larry exerts more energy in his segment of BLUE COLLAR COMEDY TOUR: THE MOVIE, than in HEALTH INSPECTOR, DELTA FARCE, and WITLESS PROTECTION combined.

Barely written and directed by TV helmer Charles Robert Carner, WITLESS PROTECTION is a riff on MIDNIGHT RUN...so much so that Yaphet Kotto actually reprises his role from that film as FBI agent Alonzo Mosely, who this time is a villain on the take, something Larry suspects from the beginning, which is why he kidnaps rich-bitch Madeleine (Ivana Milicevic) away from the feds who are supposedly her witness protection. Initially horrified by the crassness of her countrified captor, she gradually warms to his Southern smarts, though thank God no romance blossoms – Larry has a girlfriend back home (Jenny McCarthy, “big-titted and quick-witted,” in what would normally be the Jaime Pressly role). That Whitney and Milicevic are no Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is something even Larry the Cable Guy could figure out.

Larry remains affable throughout, however – there are few belly laughs, but it’s hard to despise the movie (hard for me, anyway...others will likely have no such trouble), especially when Peter Stormare shows up over-enunciating the most brilliantly awful English accent of all time, or Joe Mantegna cameos as a Cajun mad scientist. Such things should make the movie awesomely weird, but Carner directs so poorly that even set-pieces which ought to be interesting – a Keystone Kops bit staged on a pig farm here, an oh-so-careful fight in an antique room there – are rendered amateurishly. And it should also be noted that at no point does Larry ever say “Git-R-Done!” or even “Lord I apologize!” It’s one thing if Dan Whitney wants to expand his range as an actor, but if you’re gonna be in Skynyrd, you gots to play “Free Bird”...KnowhutImean, Vern?


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