I know most people today don’t remember when the name “National Lampoon” meant you were going to see a funny movie. Every year National Lampoon puts out several movies, most of which you’ve never heard of. Their latest has all the makings of a return to their former glory with the exception of a functioning script. National Lampoon’s Pucked a.k.a. The Trouble with Frank has a great director, a decent cast but lacks in the one thing that would make it worthwhile, anything remotely involving a plot.
Director Arthur Hiller has fallen from a once lofty spot over the years. He’s a long way away from Plaza Suite, The Out-of-Towners, Silver Streak and The In-Laws. At one time the man knew how to make a funny movie. Sadly, like many 70’s directors who once made great movies (cough…Coppola…cough) he’s fallen on creatively hard times and spent the last twenty years making one bad movie after another. Pucked does not improve his record any.
Frank Hopper (Jon Bon Jovi) is a former lawyer turned entrepreneur that has dreams that are bigger than his pocketbook. Living in his sister’s garage, he scrapes by with whatever charity his sister (Nora Dunn) will give him. When he’s out with his best friend Carl (David Faustino) he fills out a survey where he says his income is $1 million dollars. Soon afterwards he receives a credit card in the mail, then another and another till he has over 200 credit cards. Pretty soon is almost as he becomes a millionaire through credit cards.
Now finically solvent, sort of, he embarks on his latest idea: an all-women’s ice hockey league. He keeps charging on the cards to pay for the league and eventually racks up $300,000 in credit debt. This catches the eye of some corporate credit bureau and they take him to court for fraud and some other ridiculous charges. If only Frank can remember how to be a lawyer, with the help of his old flame Jessica (Estella Warren), he’ll be able to triumph over the bad credit card companies.
Jon Bon Jovi isn’t really a strong enough actor to be a leading man. He’s been fine as a supporting member in several films. Here Bon Jovi looks pretty but doesn’t have the charisma to make you believe he’s anything more than a pretty boy. Estella Warren wowed audiences with her excellent job in The Cooler. Since then she’s gone from one bad movie to another and her future roles don’t look to be changing that. Hopefully her next decision will be to find a new agent. Nora Dunn and David Faustino play the same parts they’ve always played and Cary Elwes as Jessica’s ex-boyfriend/prosecuting attorney dons a bad wig and has one of the worst accents in the history of film.
The mediocre directing and the flat acting aside, what hurts Pucked more than anything is the stunningly bad editing. A scene may start in one place and then jump to an entirely different place often times in the middle of a conversation. In several scenes characters will be talking inside the hockey arena and then for no reason end up outside finishing the conversation. There is no transition between the two scenes and that makes for a very troubled viewing experience.
Assuming that Pucked is a comedy (it after all does have the “National Lampoon” name attached), it fails on almost every level. The laughs are few and by the time Frank gets to the courtroom, you still have almost half the movie to suffer though. If this had been a more slapstick affair or went for more of a Porky’s angle it might have been a fun movie. In the end, only the audience gets pucked and they get pucked over hard.