Witless Protection

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In the press notes for Larry the Cable Guy's latest comedy, his co-stars are quoted at length describing the constant hilarity they experienced on the set. Unfortunately for filmgoers, little of that fun has made its way into the finished product, which makes his previous effort, "Delta Farce," seem a classic by comparison. The aptly named "Witless Protection" opened Friday without being screened in advance for the snobbish press.

Apparently seeking to fill the gaping cinematic void left by the untimely passing of Jim Varney ("Ernest"), the rotund Southern comedian again is playing a yokel, a deputy sheriff who attends to such duties as resolving a domestic dispute between a man and his horse.

When Larry encounters the unusual sight of a beautiful high-society woman (Ivana Milicevic) being escorted by a group of "Men in Black" types, he decides that she must be being held against her will. He takes it upon himself to save the day by kidnapping the woman himself and winds up being pursued by a team of FBI agents led by the slow-burning Yaphet Kotto (making a welcome return to the big screen after an absence of more than a decade).

The resulting "Midnight Run" scenario -- Kotto plays the same character he did in that 1988 comedy -- finds the mismatched duo forming an unlikely bond while becoming embroiled in a complex adventure involving a crooked wealthy tycoon (Peter Stormare, sporting perhaps the worst British accent ever) and the kung fu fighting leader (Eric Roberts) of his security team Private Maximum Security, or PMS for short.

Director-screenwriter Charles Robert Carner's script includes such gemlike dialogue exchanges as: "Are you insane? No, I'm Larry" and "Do you think he's attempting subterfuge? Or, he's trying to fool us."

Needless to say, much of the humor revolves around Larry's copious repertoire of gross bodily functions and his massive girth, the latter of which is showcased in his landmark, first (albeit, thankfully PG-13) nude scene.

In an illustration of the alternative universe of comedy films, Jenny McCarthy plays Larry's loving girlfriend, showcasing her estimable physical assets in a variety of revealing costumes.

At least a fright-wigged Joe Mantegna, delivering an execrable cameo as a whacked-out doctor, has a good excuse for his presence; the writer-director is one of his former film students.

WITLESS PROTECTION
Lionsgate
Parallel Entertainment
Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Charles Robert Carner
Story: Alan Blomquist, Charles Robert Carner
Producers: J.P. Williams, Alan Blomquist
Executive producers: Tom Ortenberg, Thomas Busch
Director of photography: Michael Goi
Production designer: Cabot McMullen
Costume designer: Susan Kaufmann
Editor: Marc Leif
Cast:
Deputy Larry Stalder: Larry the Cable Guy
Madeline Dimkowski: Ivana Milicevic
Alonzo Mosely: Yaphet Kotto
Arthur Grimsley: Peter Stormare
Wilford Duvall: Eric Roberts
Dr. Rondog "Doc" Savage: Joe Mantegna
Connie: Jenny McCarthy
Running time -- 97 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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