-By Ed Kelleher

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Remember your best pal from grammar school, the one who was kind of nerdy but you tolerated him anyway? Chances are you rarely think of him that often, now that you're an adult. But what if he came back into your life, a tenuous grown-up, still a jerky guy, who is still fond of his childhood toys and wants to hang around with you-incessantly?

That's the premise of Chuck & Buck, a slight film if ever there was one. It's also the dilemma facing Chuck (Chris Weitz, co-producer of American Pie), a young Los Angeles music executive, who was once childhood friends-and possibly more than friends-with Buck (Mike White), a lollipop-licking sad sack who turns up practically on his doorstep, just as Chuck imagines he is getting his act together, both professionally and domestically.

Buck's reunion with Chuck comes about indirectly when the former's mother passes away and Buck invites Chuck to the wake. Chuck stops by the funeral parlor to pay his respects, but Buck is way too happy to see him and greets him with a sexual grope that alerts Chuck as to what is very much on his childhood pal's mind.

Although Buck is 27 years old, he sees no reason why he and Chuck can't resume their friendship, as if nothing has changed since they were grade-school pals. Trouble is, Chuck's life has evolved since then. He is more concerned with his music career, as well as with his fiance Carlyn (Beth Colt). The latter takes a dim view of Buck, whom she sizes up as a rival of sorts, and an odd one at that.

Buck is an odd rival and a pest to boot, but during the downtime when he's not shadowing Chuck, he manages to worm his way into an L.A. theatre group, where he stages an amateurish play called Hank & Frank. Buck invites Chuck to the premiere and the latter actually turns up, suggesting that Chuck may be less dismissive of Buck than he lets on.

Written by White and directed by Miguel Arteta (Star Maps), the digitally shot Chuck & Buck has an intriguing premise, but one that is difficult to sustain over the span of a 99- minute feature. At times, the narrative feels pasted together. An irritating little tune that pops up continually on the soundtrack doesn't help matters, nor does the weak subplot involving the play.

How one responds to Chuck & Buck may depend on how much compassion one can muster for a character who is an insensitive, overgrown child and a potential stalker. Think of an obsessive, semi-deranged variant of Pee-wee Herman or the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction and you've pretty much got the picture.

--Ed Kelleher

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