John Cena appearing at a party as Ricky Stanicky | Agents of Fandom

‘Ricky Stanicky’ Review: John Cena’s Colossal Effort Can’t Save This Underwhelming Comedy

Cena continues to prove himself as a wonderful comedic actor, but his performance isn’t enough to salvage this film.

Warning: The following Ricky Stanicky review may contain spoilers.

The concept of inventing an imaginary scapegoat to serve as one’s human shield is anything but new. Often, it’s a “fake Canadian girlfriend.” For Dean (Zac Efron), Wes (Jermaine Fowler), and JT (Andrew Santino), however, it’s an imaginary friend. Ricky Stanicky tells the tale of these three childhood friends whose lie takes on a life of its own. Starring alongside them in the film is John Cena, who has proven himself to be surprisingly effective in comedic roles.

The film, which was in development since 2010, is now streaming exclusively on Prime Video. Despite its pair of A-List headliners and interesting concept, Ricky Stanicky ultimately fails in its execution. Cena is the film’s brightest spot, as he goes to any lengths necessary to get laughs — and he succeeds. Efron, who recently stunned audiences in 2023’s The Iron Claw, falls short of matching his co-star’s palpable comedic energy. In the end, a few amusing moments notwithstanding, Ricky Stanicky feels like a missed opportunity for a more complete comedy.

Despite a Promising Premise, the Story of ‘Ricky Stanicky’ Falls Flat

Jermaine Fowler (left), Zac Efron (middle) and Andrew Santino (right) sharing a toast to their imaginary friend, Ricky Stanicky | Agents of Fandom
The trio of Jermaine Fowler, Zac Efron, and Andrew Santino don’t have much chemistry. Image Credit: Prime Video.

No matter how good a film’s story may be, a lack of chemistry among its main cast can derail things. One of Ricky Stanicky‘s shortcomings is that Efron, Fowler, and Santino just don’t play off each other very well. When Cena interacts with the trio individually or as a group, there is an immediate and noticeable tonal shift. The story once again stalls out whenever Cena is off-screen and the focus shifts back to the main threesome.

Cena’s character, who is actually named Rod Rimestead, enters the story innocently enough. Going by the stage name Rock Hard Rod, Rimestead is an actor who performs unique song covers for a living. The cutaways to Cena in various costumes while singing risqué lyrics to classic tunes are nothing short of hilarious.

When the trio’s loved ones pressure them to finally produce the mysterious “Ricky,” they hire Rod out of desperation. As one might predict from similar movie or television comedies of the past, this plan ultimately goes off the rails. Ironically enough, so does the film.

John Cena Continues To Add to an Impressive Comedic Résumé

Zac Efron (left) and John Cena (right) smiling outside in a scene from 'Ricky Stanicky' | Agents of Fandom
Every line and physical mannerism delivered by John Cena throughout the film hit the mark. Image Credit: Prime Video.

It cannot be emphasized enough how much John Cena carries this film from the second he hits the screen. While the wrestling legend is known for his action roles, he’s shown serious comedic acting chops in recent years. This trend continues in Ricky Stanicky, as Cena delivers in his comedic timing, line delivery, and goofy movements and gyrations. Considering that he’s also essentially playing two different roles, his performance is all the more impressive.

In many ways, Cena’s performance in the film mirrors Rod’s performance as Ricky. Cena’s character initially appears on-screen as a down-on-his-luck yet irrationally optimistic performer. Once he lands the gig to play Stanicky, Rod pulls out all the stops to make himself appear convincing. Like his character, Cena displays a depth one wouldn’t typically expect from somebody named Rock Hard Rod. The actor’s performance isn’t enough to salvage the film, but certainly helps provide its heart and best moments.

‘Ricky Stanicky’ Is an Extremely Rare Miss for Zac Efron

Jermaine Fowler (left), Zac Efron (middle) and Andrew Santino (right) attending a concert in Atlantic City during a scene from 'Ricky Stanicky' | Agents of Fandom
Efron’s character Dean was completely forgettable and lacked the actor’s trademark charm. Image Credit: Prime Video.

One of the world’s most recognizable movie stars today, Zac Efron has played both serious and more lighthearted roles. Comedy is not new to him, as he starred alongside Seth Rogen in Neighbors and Neighbors 2, among several others. For whatever reason, Efron’s performance is lacking in Ricky Stanicky. His best moments come when playing off of Cena, but there’s just no chemistry between Efron and his other castmates.

Efron’s character, Dean, is someone who had a rough childhood, and he brings that across very well. These more serious moments are sprinkled in somewhat out of place throughout the plot, however, and it just doesn’t work. Efron is the film’s more grounded foil who occasionally drops in a line or two of funny dialogue. For an actor who can convey humor effectively, this performance doesn’t come together for Efron. Hopefully, he can flex his comedy muscles again soon in a role more tailored to him.

The Cast of Prime Video’s Newest Comedy Can’t Keep Up With John Cena

John Cena (right) greets Jermaine Fowler, Zac Efron and Andrew Santino in a bar scene | Agents of Fandom
If the rest of the Ricky Stanicky cast could have matched John Cena’s energy, the film would have truly flourished. Image Credit: Prime Video.

Despite the presence of some A-Listers and the framework for a great comedy, something about Ricky Stanicky feels amiss. Perhaps the fact that the film was written all the way back in 2010 plays a role here. It definitely has a similar feel to other raunchy comedies from that period. Back then, a comedy of this caliber likely would have received a summer theatrical release. In the current streaming-heavy landscape, however, audiences are left to watch this film on their televisions, which ironically may be for the best.

At one point, James Franco was set to play this film’s lead role. Later on, Jim Carrey was in talks that eventually broke down. On top of that, there were a ton of different and obviously contrasting voices contributing to the script; six different writers are credited with contributing to Ricky Stanicky.

Ultimately, though, despite its various rewrites and re-castings over the years, this film’s problem boils down to one thing: No other cast members can match the constant energy that John Cena displays every second he’s on screen. Every other actor, including Efron, looks like they’re hopping on set, reading off their lines and calling it a day. It’s a shame because there was potential for something memorable and really funny here. However, despite a handful of bright spots, Ricky Stanicky ultimately misses the mark.

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‘Ricky Stanicky’ Review

‘Ricky Stanicky’ Review
2 5 0 1
2.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Literally everything John Cena does in this film is hilarious.
  • The movie does have some funny one liners sprinkled in all throughout.
  • There's a funny recurring gag from William H. Macy that gets some laughs.

The Bad

  • The story had some real potential, but ultimately falls flat.
  • There's very little character development of any kind outside of Rod.
  • None of the other cast members can match Cena's energy.
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