Movie Review: Bros turn “Buddy Games” into comic bloodsport

You can be a fan of Minot, North Dakota’s own Josh Duhamel, and want to see his directing debut.

Fond memories of guy’s guy/car-guy funnyman of Dax Shepard? Yup.

And Olivia Munn as the gorgeous tough broad in a sea of testosterone? That always pays dividends.

But it’s the presence of Nick Swardson that’s the most important casting choice and the dead give-away for “Buddy Games,” a bro comedy about pals who bond over their annual contest of strength, skill, guts and stomach capacity. Nothing says “low, lower lowest brow” like Swardson. The star of “Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star” and “He’ll do anything for a laugh” mascot of Adam Sandler’s posse is a veritable brand name for juvenile gross-out. To me, his name in the credits is a guaranteed “pass,” especially since Sandler moved his aged act to Netflix.

“Buddy Games” is practically built around Swardson, leaning on him for the stomach-churning “comedy,” to sell assorted bodily-function/bodily fluids gags that others in the cast — Kevin Dillon included — would blanche from trying.

The script is slapdash and daft, and not in a good way. And you almost feel sorry for Swardson being forced to carry it and set the “teabagging” tone. But the viewer is the victim here.

Duhamel, Dillon, Shepard, Swardson, James Roday Rodriguez (“Psyche”) and Dan Bakkedahl (“Veep,” “The Goldbergs”) are friends who’ve been competing in this elaborate multi-discipline “Buddy Games” thing in the forests around a family cabin Bob’s family owns in the hills.

Whatever else has been going on in their lives — marriages, business ventures, dreams — they revert to their place in the pack whenever the “Games” roll around. Bob (Duhamel) becomes “The Bobfather,” planner of their various “tests.”

We meet them at the “last” Buddy Games. That’s where dominating jerk Shelly (Bakedahl) got carried away with the bullying, and got injured. Five years later, Shelly’s in assisted living, shattered and in need of a boost.

Doc ( Dillon) may be a successful chiropractor, Bob a man of means who lives with the temptress Tiffany (Munn) and gymrat Zane (Rodriguez) a tanning salon (mini) tycoon. But Durfy (Shepard), who gave up running a backhoe to pursue a Hollywood career, has only worked his way up to Neal McDonough’s stand-in. Perpetual loser Bender (Swardson) has run through his inheritance.

Shelly has lost the will to live. And he blames Bender for it.

Let’s get the gang back together, play a high-stakes version of those Buddy Games, and bond anew, mending old rifts, acting like 40something juvenile delinquents for one more weekend.

The events of this decathlon for douches include kayak races and dirt bike/ATV sprints, busting a watermelon with only your bare hands or head, a corn dog eating contest, chugging duels and strapping steaks to themselves to see which of them will let a wild animal eat it off his forehead. There’s also a bar pick-up competition, obstacle courses and a bow hunt pursuing “the most dangerous game.”

The winner gets a big cash prize, and most of them could really use that right about now.

I laughed twice, and one of those two moments came in the finale. No, the outtakes over the end credits don’t have so much as a grin in them.

The other laugh came from Swardson’s Bender, desperate to raise cash, selling vodka shots in competition with the neighborhood eight-year-olds, who’re running a lemonade stand. For once, Swardson’s go-to vulgarity amounts to mirth.

“You’re gonna be STRIPPERS when you grow up! Really BAD ones that NO one pays to see!”

Sex jokes, semen zingers, flatulence, gay gags and the aforementioned “teabagging” are the rule here. It’s like every idea and not-funny-enough profanity edited out of a Judd Apatow movie was cut and pasted into a script designed to mimic “Tag,” after a fashion.

It’s just terrible. With Nick Swardson in it, we should have known.

MPA Rating: R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nudity, drug use and brief violence

Cast: Josh Duhamel, Olivia Munn, Dax Shepard, Nick Swardson, Kevin Dillon, James Roday Rodriguez and Dan Bakkedahl

Credits: Directed by Josh Duhamel, script by Jude Weng, Bob Schwartz and Josh Duhamel. A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:36

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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