About the best thing one can say for 1999's "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" is that it is by far better than its sequel, 2005's "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolow," but that's not saying much. While there are certainly a few funny moments in "Deuce," mostly reaction shots, they come far and few between, the movie relying instead on stock sex gags, toilet humor, and routine physical shtick, some of which might make even a Jerry Lewis fan wince.
Maybe it was just the oddity of the character names, but I couldn't help thinking as I watched Rob Schneider as the main character, Deuce Bigalow, how much the movie reminded me of a slightly raunchier version of Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura. The comedy is just as exaggerated and silly in each case, with Schneider carrying things just that much further into the area of questionable taste. "Deuce" made his initial appearance here, and the sequel carried everything into the ridiculously stupid, so by comparison, "Male Gigolo" doesn't seem half so bad.
In any case, Schneider plays Deuce as a dorky loser who cleans fish ponds, fish tanks, and toilet bowls for a living. He's such a loser he couldn't get a date if his life depended on it. So one day cleaning a pond, he runs into a European playboy hunk named Antoine Laconte (Oded Fehr), who just happens to make his living as a gigolo. Women pay him "to give them pleasure." It's easy to see why. Laconte is everything Deuce isn't: Tall, dark, handsome, rugged, and sexy. When Laconte discovers that Deuce knows a lot about fish and he has to go abroad for three weeks, he unaccountably asks Deuce to take care of his expensive tropical fish for him, leaving Deuce to look after not only the fish but his swanky beachfront apartment, his antique weapons collection, and his Porsche convertible. But Laconte warns Deuce when he leaves that if anything is amiss when he gets back, he'll kill him.
That's the setup, and you can pretty much guess what happens next. The apartment is filled with breakables, almost all of which Deuce breaks. Within minutes he has busted the fish tank, flooded the apartment, and practically burned the place down. The penniless Deuce is faced with $6,000 worth of damages that he'll have to get repaired within three weeks, or die.
The solution to his problem appears in the form of one of Laconte's oddball friends, a pimp named T.J. (Eddie Griffin), who prefers to call himself "more of a male madam." T.J. recommends that Deuce go into the gigolo business, and the rest of the film is basically Deuce's encounters with a series of bizarre clients: 500-pound women; 10-foot women; one-legged women; mentally unstable women; sweet little women given to uncontrollable outbursts of profanity; women with sleeping disorders ("I've always wanted to try soup, but there's the fear of drowning"). Moreover, there is also a looney cop, Detective Chuck Fowler (William Forsythe), following Deuce, determined to put him, Antoine, D.J., and every other male prostitute in the city behind bars. Oh, and Deuce's father is a men's room attendant.
In effect, "Deuce Bigalow" tries to be another Farrelly brothers comedy, using gross or disabled characters and outrageous situations to develop its humor. It doesn't quite reach the level of even the weakest Farrelly brothers film, but it does make some valiant attempts. Most of the jokes in "Deuce" are juvenile or sophomoric at best, like kids giggling at dirty pictures. Expect a good deal of racy gags, sexual talk, bathroom humor, and profanity.
Yet for all its smuttiness, "Deuce Bigalow" can also be rather sweet. Along the way, Deuce meets Kate (Arija Bareikis), the first "normal" girl amongst his gigolo adventures. She is young, beautiful, and almost too good to be true. Their romance is the highlight of the film, turning what could have been merely a straightforward sex farce into more of a conventional romantic comedy. The movie's got its moments.
"Only one fish was harmed in the making of this film...but he's better now."
The Buena Vista video engineers maintain most of the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a high-bit-rate anamorphic transfer, making for a very bright, well-defined picture, with strong black levels, and deep colors. About the only things working against the otherwise excellent video quality might be that the image is often a trifle dark, with the slightest degree of grain.
I was not particularly impressed by the disc's Dolby Digital front-channel stereo spread or surround-sound properties. Although there is good bass, a realistic midrange, and fairly decent dynamics, the sound appears to come primarily from the center speaker. Even the musical soundtrack emanates largely from a narrow area in the front, with very little discernable ambiance reinforcement in the rear. Let's say the sound is a step up from good mono but a notch beneath state-of-the-art 5.1.
I have never watched "Deuce" in its previous DVD edition, so I could not tell you what the differences are. I suspect that this "Little Black Book" edition adds only the following extras (and perhaps is transferred to disc at a higher bit rate, I don't know). In any case, the extras are run-of-the-mill. They begin with an eight-minute featurette, "Making the Deuce," which is exactly what you would expect it to be--the stars talking for a few minutes about making the movie. After that is a "Director's Video Diary," about three minutes of film "compiled from director Mike Mitchell's recently uncovered personal footage." Next, there are seven deleted scenes, widescreen but in fairly shabby condition compared to the main feature. Lastly, there is a serviceable behind-the-scenes segment called "Fly on the Set," containing five scenes in the filming process.
The extras conclude with twelve scene selections and a chapter insert; Sneak Peeks at four other Buena Vista releases; English and French spoken languages; and French subtitles, with English captions for the hearing impaired.
It isn't like "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" is a totally awful film. There are parts of it that are genuinely cute, and given the level of raunch, it's almost innocent. At least, Deuce himself is quite innocent, and that's what keeps the movie from drowning in a cesspool of vulgarity. The movie is not a classic, not even a near classic, but, as I say, it's got its moments, which is more than can be said of any number of other would-be comedies.