There is no comedian quite like Larry the Cable Guy. His films are completely dreadful in every way possible—the acting, writing, direction, and comedic timing are all functioning at a grade school level. From Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector through to his current infatuation with starring in direct-to-video sequels to decades-old family comedies, every entry in the Cable Guy Canon has tested my patience and driven me to the brink of madness. His new film, Jingle All the Way 2, might be the most perfect version of this abominable sub-genre of "redneck comedy."
The release of a new Larry the Cable Guy motion picture is rarely celebrated in mainstream culture. His movies are like a self-replicating organism or the Michael Keaton clones from Multiplicity. As if you were biting into a fast-food hamburger, you can taste the infernal machines that made it when you watch it. Since he appeared in his first starring vehicle in 2006—the aforementioned Health Inspector—he's acted in six live action films and played a guy named "Larry" five times.
The one movie where he had to stretch his range and try to remember to respond to a name that's not "Larry" was A Madea Christmas—which was the "shitty racial stereotype" equivalent of a Marvel/DC crossover. His character's name was "Buddy," which has the same number of letters as "Larry" and helpfully also ends in "y." I wondered to myself if there was just another character already named Larry when he was cast that necessitated the change, but there wasn't.
He also wears glasses in the movie, which was probably a point of contention during production. If he could have convinced Pixar to forgo animating a car for the character of Mater and instead plopped the real Larry into Cars, he would have. As it stands now, A Madea Christmas was Larry the Cable Guy's Punch-Drunk Love—an earnest attempt to show the world a comedian can act.
Madea and Larry the Cable Guy share a comedic sensibility that starts at laughing at mispronounced words and ends with cliche jokes about lower-class oafs, but what separates Larry from Madea and makes him the gold standard of cringe comedy is that Tyler Perry exists out in public, but Dan Whitney does not.
The long con of Larry the Cable Guy's career has been so perfect and so fascinating to watch because the character of "Larry" has ceased to be a character at all. Larry is all we know and all we will ever know of this man. If he's out in public, he's Larry. Dan Whitney makes Sacha Baron Cohen look like Steven Seagal when it comes to commitment to character. I think we've all given up hope of ever seeing Dan Whitney again, as though he's in a trunk somewhere with his throat slit and a banana in his mouth.
Maybe an alien carved his stomach open and crawled inside like Han did with the Tauntaun in Empire Strikes Back. Some sick space parasite is controlling Dan Whitney's body, forcing him into ever more ludicrous career decisions. Yes, Dan. You will sponsor your own brand of snack foods, appear in heartburn medication commercials, and star in Tooth Fairy 2. Maybe it's some kind of scheme by the aliens to destroy the human race not with weapons, but through poisoning our culture without us ever noticing.
Jingle All the Way 2 is not a mean-spirited film. It has a heartwarming message about the importance of family. It is only 90 minutes long. It's the low-budget sequel to a baroque era Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy that's only claim to fame is how many clips from it are in those "Arnold quotes" supercut videos on YouTube. This isn't American Psycho 2 or S. Darko. The original Jingle All the Way was a miserable bowl of lukewarm cinematic haggis, so no one is going to be upset about Jingle All the Way 2 tarnishing the legacy of its predecessor. The production company behind the sequel is WWE Films, which has a legendary pedigree of making cheap schlock. With all that in mind, no one can be accused of getting tricked into watching this movie. The studio might as well have slapped a sticker on the front of the box that says "This is going to suck."
What's actually insidious about the whole endeavor is that it's so good at being so bad. I once compared the mediocrity of Britney Spears to a truck-stop painting—so polished in its meaninglessness that it becomes beautiful. Jingle All the Way 2 is the Britney Spears of movies. I did not laugh once. I did not weep for humanity's future. I did not move from my seat except to get water. I didn't even get mad that I had to watch it to write this article. I just let the images and sounds wash over me like a cool redneck mud bath on a humid day at Honey Boo Boo's house. Jingle All the Way 2 offers a full compliment of expertly awful sight gags: Larry glues his ass to a mechanical bull, has his pants ripped off, is sprayed with fake snow, and occasionally puts his family in mortal danger. It's glorious.
The plot of the film is what you would expect: Larry plays "Larry," a doofus who shares custody of his daughter with his ex-wife and her new, wealthy husband. Larry and the new guy try to one-up each other until the end, when they realize the little girl just wants her family to get along.
In one of the film's more appalling set-pieces, Larry and sidekick Claude (played by Santino Marella, the latest recipient of WWE's vertical integration master plan) pack a semi-truck with snow to trump his daughter's step-dad's lavish Christmas decorations. Real snow is preferable to fake snow, after all. It's real, and fake snow is, of course, not real. Larry is too dull, dim-witted, and devoid of any basic understanding of physics to realize that the snow will melt inside the hot truck. When Larry opens the back of the truck, he's hit with a rushing wall of water that knocks him back on his ass. Boy, is he embarrassed! Fortunately for Larry, his daughter finds the whole thing hilarious (which is more than I can say for myself).
Only in these sorts of movies do human beings exist who find morons charming. Larry lighting his homemade, makeshift Christmas lights early in the film could have started a fire that would murder his entire family in a most horrific way. The man has no formal training as an electrician and doesn't seem to have any trade or talent outside of falling over backwards. If something went wrong with his lights, he'd have to stand there watching his ex-wife and young daughter melt right before his eyes, just praying he can find a working landline phone to call 911 before they dissolve into puddles of gelatinous human flesh. Kinda grim for a Christmas movie, so thankfully that didn't happen.
Larry the Cable Guy is perfect for these cookie-cutter sequels because half of the movie is already written when he's cast in the lead. The problem with direct-to-video franchises like Bring It On, American Pie, andBehind Enemy Lines is that thought has to go into writing new characters and fitting the micro-budget, shoddy sequels into an elaborate continuity. Not with a movie headlined by ol' Larry.
Just like Ernest before him, you can plug this character into any situation, genre, or wacky scenario and it "works." The Ernest or Police Academy formula of recycling the same shitty jokes for seven movies only works if the brand attached is popular. The first Ernest and the first Police Academy films were blockbusters in their day. Larry the Cable Guy has never starred in a successful feature film comedy, but he is someone people know. You can expect his fans to show up, but you can dupe even more people into dropping coin if you market his movies as sequels to popular old titles. That's the entire business of cinema now—brand recognition. Larry in a sequel means two fanbases for the price of one.
Could this formula be applied more frequently? Yes, but I won't stop at the theoretical. I want to put your money where my mouth is. I'm ready to pitch a whole slew of unnecessary sequels starring Larry the Cable Guy, so pick up your landline phone, Hollywood!
How do you feel aboutGet Smart 2 starring Larry as a bumbling redneck spy who lives in a trailer and has a phone built into his workboots? Not your cup of moonshine? Then try Coneheads 2, starring Larry as a lovable dullard who lives in a trailer, but also has a cone on his head. For the sake of saving valuable money, instead of him being an alien from the planet Remulak, he's just a dude with a traffic cone glued to his skull.
Last, but not least, may I suggest How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days 2? Larry is an ill-educated hillbilly who lives in a trailer and accidentally loses his best friend from school (who has grown up to be a snooty billionaire) in the unforgiving woods of North Carolina after a ten-day visit for their class reunion. Will Larry find his friend before he starves to death or is eaten by bears? More importantly, will he realize the true meaning of Christmas? The only way to find out is to greenlight my script.
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