Asleep at the wheel

Movie: Dude, Where's My Car?

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Our Rating: 1.50

The next time you hear some Hollywood suit proclaim that the film industry is against pandering to the basest instincts of minors, don't bother to listen. The statement has no merit as long as Tinseltown is putting out dreck like "Dude, Where's My Car?"

It's a picture that's defined by innuendo only because the vices it celebrates can't fit into a PG-13 rating. Here, everyone TALKS about "getting wasted," but the only character who actually tokes up is a dog. That restraint rolls out the welcome mat for the film's true audience: those who aspire to one day drive a car. It's not for fans of "Beavis and Butt-head"; it IS for Beavis and Butt-head.

Aiding and abetting are stars Ashton Kutcher (of TV's "That '70s Show") and Seann William Scott (Road Trip). They play Jesse and Chester, two slackers who wake up after a night of partying to discover that the former's car has gone missing. (Hence the title.) Neither can they figure out how, in one evening, they have apparently managed to lease a Mercedes, get tattoos on their backs ("Dude" for one, "Sweet" for the other) and make contact with aliens. Their girlfriends (Jennifer Garner and Marla Sokoloff) aren't pleased with them, either.

It would be nice to report that lots of laughs ensue as the fellas retrace their steps to find the car, repair the girlfriend damage and save the universe. No luck, dude! Though Kutcher and Scott are good-looking kids and not-bad actors, they're restricted to performing poor imitations of the comedy duos of the past. You know the names: Bud and Lou. Bill and Ted. Dumb and Dumber.

Preview screenings of the film were declared off-limits to critics, with bushels of passes instead handed out to high-school groups. When this reviewer attempted to crash one such showing, he was escorted out. Back for opening day, he found himself in the company of about a dozen other patrons -- and this inside a busy mall during the thick of the holiday shopping season. Whatever word-of-mouth the teen-aged early birds had shared with their peers can't have been priceless publicity.

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