‘Ricky Stanicky’ Review: Zac Efron And John Cena Mine Big Laughs In Peter Farrelly’s Hilarious Return To Raunchy R-Rated Comedy

Everything you need to know about the new movie Ricky Stanicky is on the poster with its stark message plastered right across it: WARNING! AN R-RATED COMEDY. Oh, and the fact that it is directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly also tells you a lot. This is undeniably a return to the kinds of outrageous, raunchy, anything-goes style of comedy that made the Farrelly brand a household name with films like Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, Kingpin, Stuck On You and the “Citizen Kane” of the genre, There’s Something About Mary. More recently Farrelly, who also managed to put heart in even the wildest of situations, took his career in a different direction with his wonderful and emotional Oscar-winning Green Book, as well as the terrific true story The Greatest Beer Run Ever which starred Zac Efron. The latter is now reunited with the filmmaker and the results are laugh-out-loud hilarious in Ricky Stanicky, which will also certify John Cena as a real-deal comedy star, something I never expected to say. The guy has great comedic chops, at least in this.

Starting with a flashback we meet three juvenile, highly immature pranksters Dean, J.T. and Wes, who on one Halloween pull off a stunt that goes too far on an unsuspecting house they virtually set on fire before running off — but not before scribbling the name Ricky Stanicky on a piece of clothing left behind to lay the blame elsewhere. Thus the fictional Stanicky was born, a fake person they often used to blame all of their foibles and trouble-making schemes on.

More from Deadline

Cut to present day and they are still at it, still best friends as adults, still immature in many ways, and still using Ricky Stanicky as the central figure in their blame game. As J.T. (Andrew Santino) is about to become a father in their native Rhode Island, he joins Wes (Jermaine Fowler) and Dean (Efron) on a careless sojourn to party it up in a casino in Atlantic City, unbeknownst to J.T.’s wife Susan (Anja Savcic) and Dean’s partner in life, aspiring news reporter Erin (Lex Scott Davis). It is there the trio meets a pathetic “actor” / celebrity impressionist Rod Rimestead, aka “Roc Hard” Rod (Cena), who is too out there even for these guys, especially in his act with god-awful musical impressions of Britney Spears, Boy George, Billy Idol and more in full dress but always changing the lyrics to something about masturbation. The trip is cut short when word comes that Susan is in labor six weeks early and they must rush back, blaming J.T.’s absence of the birth on, who else, Ricky Stanicky.

This incident finally sparks curiosity from all corners of their lives as to why they have never met this supposed childhood and lifelong friend who they champion as this kind of heroic world traveler and genius at everything. Well it all comes to fruition when they get the idea to hire an actor to play Stanicky for just a few hours at J.T.’s son’s bris, where everyone will be gathered and they can quash all the skepticism and mystery about this legendary friend. Enter Rod, who they fly in out of desperation, but soon find the guy is giving the performance of this life simply dazzling the crowd in every way imaginable, even finishing off the circumcision after the Rabbi (Jeffrey Ross) flips out after accidentally taking ketamine. Turns out “Ricky” is handy with a cigar cutter that saves the day. Mission accomplished, until later at the financial institution they work for, J.T. and Dean are stunned to discover “Ricky” aka Rod somehow bonded with one of the guests at the bris — none other than their boss Ted Summerhayes (William H. Macy), who on a hunch has decided to hire him. Say what? In less than two days the infinitely inept Rod manages to luck his way into becoming some sort of great idea man, at least in the eyes of Ted, and it becomes the mission of J.T. and Dean to stop it before it careens out of control. Don’t worry. This is a Farrelly comedy and it definitely does.

Although the first part of the film threatens to throw everything against the wall and get just too dumb for comfort, it is all in support of the rest of the film which really starts taking off at the bris and everything that follows. Farrelly knows when to pile it on, but also how to keep it human and actually real (or real enough) by never letting these characters fly too far over the top. He’s got a game cast led by Efron, who manages to play most of it as the straight man caught up in circumstances he regrets. Santino and the terrific Fowler also have key moments, but the true scene stealer is Cena, who isn’t afraid to “go there” and it pays off for him. Macy also is a scene-stealer, milking every possible laugh out of an “air dicking” habit he has when talking with his fist; it is just one of many reasons for the R-rated warning in the ads.

Fans of the Farrelly brand will not be disappointed, but it is a shame this is debuting on streaming (Prime Video) because if ever there was a movie that cries out to be seen with an audience in a movie theater, it is this one.

Producers are Paul Currie, Thorsten Schumacher, John Jacobs and Michael De Luca.

Title: Ricky Stanicky
Distributor: Amazon MGM Studios
Release Date: March 7, 2024 (Prime Video)
Director: Peter Farrelly
Screenwriters: Jeff Bushell and Brian Jarvis & James Lee Freeman & Peter Farrelly & Pete Jones & Mike Cerrone
Cast: Zac Efron, John Cena, William H. Macy, Jermaine Fowler, Andrew Santino, Jeffrey Ross, Anja Savcic, Lex Scott Davis
Rating: R
Running time: 1 hr 52 min

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.