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Gangsta Crap

When last we spotted indie icons Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau on-screen together, they were knocking back fruit-flavored martinis and chasing L.A. skirt in the inventive Gen X hit Swingers. The goofy charm of that phenomenon now gives way, I'm sad to report, to a labored fringes-of-the-Mob comedy titled Made, in which the friends play guys five years older but certainly no wiser. If anything they've regressed. Picture the dopes from Dumb and Dumber getting mixed up in organized crime -- but without benefit of Jim Carrey's rubberized pratfalls or his go-to-hell anarchism.

Writer, director, and star Favreau is the ostensible auteur of this bicoastal farce in which a pair of buddies, scuffling Los Angeles construction workers who don't have a clue about gangsterdom, suddenly find themselves wearing suits on a jet to New York, where they're supposed to do a murky piece of business for a minor L.A. Mob boss (played to the comic hilt and beyond by veteran tough guy Peter Falk). Favreau's Bobby is the levelheaded half of the team, which isn't saying much. A part-time prizefighter with a 5-5-1 record, he's a genial but dull galoot who's fallen under the spell of a stripper (Famke Janssen) who works bachelor parties to make ends meet for herself and her daughter. Bobby's running mate, Ricky (Vaughn), is the inevitable buffoon. Imagine the boisterous shtick of Jerry Lewis and Lou Costello, raise the volume 300 percent while simultaneously cutting the quality in half, and you have Vince Vaughn in Made.

By the time Ricky stops harassing the flight attendant on the airplane, you want to weld his jaws shut. By the time he's alienated the staff and fellow guests at his New York hotel and made a fool of himself in Little Italy, you want to knock him cold. The spectacle of innocents abroad has enlivened comedy for more than a century, but in every successful case from Twain to The Out-of-Towners, the strivers have been as likable as they are misguided, so audiences can take them to heart. By contrast Vaughn comes off as the loudmouthed drunk at your cousin's wedding, obstreperous and intrusive. Hard-core fans may love him here. Everyone else will probably wonder why Favreau let the actor run amok through his movie on such limited comic talent.

Made's joke -- its only joke, retold dozens of times -- derives from the contrast between Ricky's unfettered bluster and the dead-serious business the actual bad guys are trying to conduct. When a slick downtown mobster called Ruiz (rapper Sean Combs) tries to give instructions to the hicks from L.A., Ricky lets fly a torrent of half-witted street jargon. When they're supposed to be on call, listening for the cell phone to ring, they're blowing a bundle in a discotheque and inviting girls from Queens to their room for a party. Everyone knows they're fools -- and not very interesting ones. Even their limousine driver, Jimmy, played by beefy Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos' late, lamented "Big Pussy"), gives them a sad, unbelieving stare: Surely he's as unhappy about the current slide of gangster movies into crude slapstick as he is bemused by the present characters' ridiculous high jinks.

The plot, such as it is, drags the bumbling heroes all over New York, from Harlem at midnight to the tony Tavern on the Green at noon to a tough Irish bar in Red Hook in midafternoon, but it takes them exactly nowhere. The dumbbell and the loudmouth, we feel confident, will neither come to any real harm nor prove to be particularly amusing. The chemistry that made Favreau and Vaughn so appealing in Swingers is notably absent here -- partly because thirtysomething nitwits aren't as naturally magnetic as twentysomething nitwits. So we must look elsewhere in Made for minor entertainments. David Patrick O'Hara does a nice turn as a shady Welshman visiting Manhattan to do nefarious business, and Faizon Love is terrific as Mob factotum Horrace, all hip-hop attitude and humorous street pose. But Ricky and Bobby badly misfire, not least when they return from their misadventures to become -- of all things -- surrogate L.A. parents wearing party hats at a Chuck E. Cheese's. When it's all over, they make Mickey Blue Eyes look like a comic genius.

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Bill Gallo

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