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Ryan Gosling Never Stumbles in a Bruisingly Funny Comedy About a Stuntman

Ryan Gosling Never Stumbles in a Bruisingly Funny Comedy About a Stuntman
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Emily Blunt and Hannah Waddingham also star in this smart film based on the 1980s TV series

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<p>Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures </p> Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stuntman.

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Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures

Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stuntman.

Movies based on vintage, often second-rate network shows don’t usually offer audiences much more than weak, watery nostalgia. You almost feel you’ve gotten a gift when what emerges from the production pipeline is a wonderfully stupid comedy like The Brady Bunch Movie or 21 Jump Street.

In which case The Fall Guy, a reboot of an ABC series from the 1980s, is Christmas in May, with no shortage of shiny toys to be quickly banged up and discarded. Playtime, kids!

Starring Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stuntman with a name that could adorn an adult-film star — Colt Seavers — Fall Guy is an exceptionally nimble, clever movie about the people who make movies, as well as a valentine to Hollywood’s small but tough population of stunt artists.

Peppered with references to every thing from Thelma & Louise to Dumbo (a drug dealer cites the Disney cartoon as a real life-changer), it includes one big action stunt after another — notably a Jeep executing a record eight-flip rollover.

Related: Challengers Review: Zendaya Stars in a Sensational, Sexy Comedy About Love and Tennis

Whether you respond more to this or the Dumbo reference probably says something about what sort of moviegoer you are. But it doesn’t matter: Directed by David Leitch (Bullet Train), who earlier in his career performed stunts in hits including Fight Club and two Bourne films, Fall Guy aims first and foremost to be pure entertainment, and it succeeds.

Barbie’s Gosling, who’s turned out to be an unbeatable comic actor, gives a performance that’s funny, heroic and unexpectedly touching. The performance is no stunt.

Here’s the starting point: Colt, the favorite stuntman for superstar Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), breaks his back on a shoot. He retires to a job as a parking valet — a no-risk, no-fun existence — but is lured back to work by producer Gail Meyer (Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham, buried under a harsh cascade of curls). She tells him that Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), the novice director of a sci-fi epic called Metalstorm, has requested him for the film’s Australian shoot.

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<p>Getty</p> Gosling with Emily Blunt.<p>Getty</p> Gosling with Emily Blunt.

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Gosling with Emily Blunt.

Colt, a romantic at heart, thinks this might be his chance to rekindle the romance he had with Jody back before his accident. But it’s a bait and switch: Gail is recruiting him for her own purposes. Tom, who happens to be Metalstorm’s star, is MIA and needs to be found. Colt starts his investigation by breaking into his apartment, where a female ninja worthy of Kill Bill (either part) lies in wait — and where the walls are covered with random Post-it notes: “Why is Chinese chicken orange?” “Momoa or Mamoa?”

But the mystery, which has a touch of L.A. noir reminiscent of Gosling’s underrated mystery comedy The Nice Guys (2016), turns out not to be that important.

What matters is Gosling. He could have played Colt with Will Ferrell’s brilliant, self-mocking fatuousness — or he could have whole-heartedly embraced the role’s vacuousness, as he did with his glorious turn as Ken in Barbie. But he goes a little deeper without ever sacrificing the film’s humor.

Related: Civil War Review: Kirsten Dunst Plays a Photojournalist Pushed to the Brink in a Searing Vision of a Nation Divided

<p>Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures </p> Director David Leitch and Ryan Gosling on the set of "The Fall Guy"<p>Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures </p> Director David Leitch and Ryan Gosling on the set of "The Fall Guy"

Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures

Director David Leitch and Ryan Gosling on the set of “The Fall Guy”

Sometimes hollow-eyed, sometimes full of purpose and meaning, Colt seems to realize that, even though he’s just a stuntman, he has to be the leading man of his own life.

Blunt, who was so stonily embittered in Oppenheimer, is girlish, playful and perceptive here — she somehow elevates a thinly written role above mere romantic interest or straight-woman.

By the way, we see repeated clips from Metalstorm, Jody’s film in progress. It’s about an alien in love with a space cowboy, and it looks awful. Most likely it’s supposed to.

The Fall Guy is in theaters May 3.

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