WITLESS PROTECTION

PG-13
Reviews

Witless Protection is self-styled "blue-collar comedian" Larry the Cable Guy's (née Daniel Lawrence Whitney) third feature film in three years, putting him in such rarefied one-picture-a-year company as Tyler Perry and Woody Allen. Unlike those multi-hyphenates though, Mr...uh, the Cable Guy is content to just be an actor—although one assumes he has some input in penning the so-called jokes that come out of his character's mouth. 2006's Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector established the format for the franchise: an overweight, undereducated good ol' boy is put in a position of dubious authority and proceeds to screw up royally before using his old-fashioned redneck know-how to set things right. Health Inspector cast Larry as, well, a health inspector, while last year's Delta Farce drafted him to join the war in Iraq. (Fortunately for our Middle East policy, he never made it past Mexico.)

Witless Protection keeps Larry on U.S. soil; this time around, he's a small-town cop with dreams of joining the FBI, much to the amusement of his fishing buddies and way-too-hot-for-him girlfriend Connie (Jenny McCarthy). Officer Larry sees a chance to prove himself when a dark sedan pulls up in front of the local diner and four men in black step out, escorting a clearly unhappy knockout blonde (Ivana Milicevic). Convinced that the woman is, as he says, a "damsel in dee-stress" Larry "rescues" her and waits for a grateful thank you. It's not forthcoming, though, because the mystery gal is actually a federal witness en route to a major trial under the protection of an elite FBI squad led by top agent Alonzo Moseley (Yaphet Kotto). As it turns out, Larry's instincts weren't entirely off base; Moseley is secretly in the employ of the man she's testifying against (played by Peter Stormare in full-on loony mode) and her safety now rests in the hands of a guy whose primary weapons are his smelly feet and prodigious farts.

Ranting about Witless Protection's political incorrectness—not to mention its general stupidity—would be a waste of breath, since the people behind the film would probably view such complaints as compliments. Even so, the movie is breathtakingly offensive at times, particularly whenever Larry comes into contact with anyone who isn't a white, Southern male. The worst of these encounters happens at a motel run by a Muslim man, who speaks in Yoda-like pidgin English and shrinks in fear when Larry threatens to report him to Homeland Security. With scenes like this, the filmmakers seem to be deliberately inviting the ire of blue-state critics, so that their target audience—i.e., red-state moviegoers—can laugh at how uptight we are.

But the joke's on them, because they've underestimated that same audience. While it's true that ignorance and prejudice, especially against Muslims, still infects swaths of the country, one only has to look at Barack Obama's strong showing in Southern state primaries or the election of Indian-American Bobby Jindal to the governorship of Louisiana to realize that the times are steadily changing. Distrust of that change is felt throughout Witless Protection; the film concludes with Larry turning down his dream job to return to his tiny hometown where everyone looks and talks exactly like him. This is intended as a happy ending, but really it just reminds us what a pathetic anachronism this guy is. It's nice to know that 21st-century America is on its way to becoming no country for witless men.