Review: ‘Ricky Stanicky’

John Cena Can't Rescue Zac Efron From This Deeply Unfunny Dick Joke Comedy

John Cena’s ability to make people laugh far outweigh his in-ring WWE skills. His secret is that nobody is more committed to the role than him. He’s like the Daniel Day-Lewis of goofball performances, and can make a pretty good comedy like Vacation Friends great. But his talents have limits, because he can’t make a terrible sequel like Vacation Friends 2 less objectionable. And that’s sorta where things are with Ricky Stanicky, an obnoxious, aggressively unfunny bro comedy in which Cena commits to an unusual number of masturbation jokes to try and get Peter Farrelly’s second craptastic post-Green Book film over. Then again, Cena plays a guy named “Rock Hard” Rod, so maybe masturbation humor was always part of the deal. Unfortunately, it’s about all this film has to offer.

It’s unfathomable that it’s taken more than a decade and six credited writers (!!!) to make Ricky Stanicky a reality. Prior versions nearly starred James Franco and Joaquin Phoenix in the role that Cena decided to make his own. He plays the aforementioned Rod, a raunchy hard-drinking Atlantic City performer who is recruited by a trio of old buds to play their made-up friend, Ricky Stanicky. Why have these three presumably adult men created a fake friend who they suddenly need to exist? Well, that’s part of the convoluted, contrived, exhausting set-up.

The film begins in 1999 when best buds Dean (Zac Efron), JT (Andrew Santino) and Wes (the perpetually unfunny Jermaine Fowler) create the nonexistent Ricky Stanicky identity as a built-in excuse for all of their hijinks, including nearly burning down a neighbor’s home in a poop prank gone bad. It worked so well that they just kept blaming all of their mischievous antics on Stanicky, going so far as to create a literal bible of his various activities and backstory. And this guy has done everything, from working with Green Peace to surviving cancer. Stanicky is everything and anything they need him to be in the moment, but mostly he’s an excuse for them to get out of things they don’t want to do. As adults, they use Stanicky’s cancer diagnosis as a reason to get out of a baby shower for JT’s wife and instead go to, you guessed it, Atlantic City, where they encounter Rod.

But nothing goes quite as planned. JT’s wife goes into labor early, the family tries to find them and comes to the conclusion this Ricky Stanicky person is fake. So the guys double-down on their lies, which in and of themselves are divorce-worthy awful, by hiring Rod to show up and play Ricky Stanicky to get everyone off the scent. Turns out Rod is too good at his job, though. People absolutely love him, he has an answer or a smart quip for anything. He’s a gigantic personality, and pretty soon he’s insinuated himself into their lives when they really just need Ricky Stanicky to be imaginary again. It’s the perfect kind of role for Cena, who is himself also a guy with a larger-than-life attitude and impossible to hate. Even here, in a comedy well beneath his skills, you want to root Cena on and hope he can make this movie better. He gives it his all, to be sure, indulging in a series of bonkers man juice-themed karaoke performances in drag. They’re ridiculous and Cena is clearly loving it. Ricky Stanicky doesn’t deserve him.

Ugh. I won’t even bother trying to convince you that anyone other than Cena’s Stanicky is likeable. They’re not. And poor Zac Efron, who is coming off a career-best performance in The Iron Claw, looks lost and disinterested throughout, giving his co-stars absolutely nothing to work with like they were forced to at opposite a black hole. Not that he had much to work with anyway, because the script is so lame and utterly devoid of the heart needed to balance out the moronic penis-based humor. This is Zac Efron’s second dud working with Farrelly following the so-forgettable-you-forgot-about-it Greatest Beer Run Ever, and Ricky Stanicky is as flat as the adult beverages in that film. And after nearly two hours of this dreck, you’ll need a six-pack or two to numb the pain away.

Ricky Stanicky is streaming now on Prime Video.


Ricky Stanicky
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-ricky-stanickyJohn Cena's ability to make people laugh far outweigh his in-ring WWE skills. His secret is that nobody is more committed to the role than him. He's like the Daniel Day-Lewis of goofball performances, and can make a pretty good comedy like Vacation Friends great....