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John Cena gets the laughs in middling comedy ‘Ricky Stanicky’

John Cena (right) in a scene from “Ricky Stanicky” (Amazon)

Your tolerance for the new Peter Farrelly comedy “ Ricky Stanicky “ may come down to whether or not you think the idea of accidentally miming a certain sex act is funny. The concept is of little consequence to the plot. It’s something that a few of the leads notice that the buttoned-up leader of a financial company (William H. Macy) does when he makes speeches. They decide that that’s why he’s unable to close a deal, giving it a name that is repeated so many times it could be a new drinking game. The movie thinks this is just comedy gold. You might too.

“Ricky Stanicky” (it is meant to rhyme) is a name chosen in haste by three pre-teen boys who have just accidentally lit a house on fire. They didn’t mean to commit arson, they simply wanted to burn some dog poop on the doorstep of a house that didn’t give out any Halloween candy. When the fire gets out of control, they leave behind a jacket with a fake name inscribed in it: Ricky Stanicky. He becomes their imaginary fourth friend and forever fall guy even into adulthood (in which they’re played by Zac Efron, Andrew Santino and Jermaine Fowler). But their house of alibis is in danger of crumbling when suspicious partners and one nagging mother-in-law demand that the elusive Ricky materialize. So, the guys decide to hire a washed up Atlantic City celebrity impressionist who goes by “Rock Hard” Rod (John Cena) to play Ricky for a day.

This idea did not originate with Farrelly, who, of course, with his brother defined a moment in broad 1990s comedy with movies like “Dumb & Dumber,” “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary.” The sensibility was always more than a bit juvenile — but done so gleefully and with such unabashed commitment that it was hard not to just laugh along with the antics.

And unfortunately, “Ricky Stanicky” feels like one of those lesser 2000 comedies that wanted so badly to be “There’s Something About Mary.” It makes a certain amount of sense when you consider that the script has been circling Hollywood for about 15 years.

It has stamps of a Farrelly romp – a bit with a dog and a duck, a little accidental drugging, a comedic circumcision and an album’s worth of pop songs reworked to be about masturbation — but little of the charm.

One of the problems is that it is filmed with all the artfulness of a yogurt commercial. Everything looks like a set. Everyone looks like an actor.

The one bright spot is Cena, who is quite good. Like his character, who goes above and beyond to adeptly play Ricky Stanicky, Cena really and truly commits and brings a kind of unexpected depth and pathos to Rock Hard Rod. He’s flexed his comedy muscles before and should again, soon. Is it enough to save the movie? Not for me. LINDSEY BAHR, MDT/AP Film Writer

“Ricky Stanicky,” an MGM/Amazon Studios release streaming on Prime Video last week, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for “language throughout, some drug content and sexual material.” Running time: 112 minutes.

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