LOS ANGELES — When Dane Cook was 3, he was attacked and almost killed by a German shepherd. Beneath his hair is a zigzagging scar that became etched into his cranium after receiving nearly 80 stitches. Following the disclosure of this “fun fact,” as he coyly calls it, the actor-comedian uses the opportunity to tell a joke.
“Hopefully, someday, I’ll play a James Bond villain,” he said. “I’ll shave my head, so you can see all the ravines.”
Such a role would probably have more bite than Cook’s previous efforts on the big screen. Like as Dennis Rodman’s wisecracking sidekick in the forgettable 1999 action flick “Simon Sez.” Or as a slacker stockboy who falls for a cashier played by Jessica Simpson in the zany 2006 romantic comedy “Employee of the Month.” And even as Jessica Alba’s cursed love interest in the 2007 sex romp “Good Luck Chuck.”
These days, instead of a German shepherd, it’s film critics who chomp at Cook. The 36-year-old comedian most famous — or infamous, depending on who you ask — for gurgling cultural insights and sexually charged material in front of sold-out crowds has consistently been dubbed unfunny by movie critics, despite his continued success as standup comedian.
Other than a serious turn as a wannabe serial killer in the 2007 thriller “Mr. Brooks,” Cook’s attempts to sidestep from the stage to screen have been poorly received.
That may change with his latest effort, the R-rated romantic comedy “My Best Friend’s Girl,” which opens today. The movie is opening without screenings for critics.
“This is the one where I look at it and think there’s a character and a real evolution with this guy,” he said.
“With ‘Chuck’ or ‘Employee of the Month,’ I was playing the levelheaded middle, carrying the film at the center with a lot of craziness going on around me,” Cook said. “I finally wanted an opportunity to take some of the elements of my standup and mix it together with a fun story.”
In the film, Cook plays Tank Turner, an air purifier call-center supervisor by day, anti-Cupid by night. He’s a suave emotional terrorist for hire by freshly dumped guys. For a fee, Tank will subject their ex-girlfriends to the worst date of their lives in hopes they go running back to their respective boyfriends. They usually do.
While this badboy role most closely resembles Cook’s on-stage antics, he’s quick to point out that the goofball who gleefully recounts one-night-stands in comedy clubs isn’t really him. And neither is Tank. Cook says he based much of the character on his best friend, comedian Robert Kelly, as well as Johnny Cash and Brain from “Pinky and the Brain.”
“I’m much more introverted and shy, contrary to popular belief,” he said. “Tank is fearless and always on the cusp.”
Tank’s game changes when he meets — all together now — his best friend’s girl, who gnaws through Tank’s bravado after a drunken tryst. The best friend is played by Jason Biggs from the “American Pie” films. Kate Hudson from “Fool’s Gold” serves as the girl. Alec Baldwin portrays Tank’s lecherous father in a handful of scenes.
“I definitely like an ensemble like this more,” Cook said. “I love that I got to work with Alec, Kate and Jason on this movie. These people bring a high caliber of talent to the table.”
Whether “My Best Friend’s Girl” lands on its feet or its head in movie theaters, the seemingly unstoppable Cook has no plans to completely fly away from his comedy roots. He’s currently working on his fourth comedy album as well as plotting an accompanying comedy TV special and tour.