by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel
Two men who couldn’t be more opposite are thrust together in a series of increasingly ridiculous scenarios. Philip Horkman, the nice, mild-mannered owner of a pet shop called ‘The Wine Shop’, spends his weekends as a volunteer referee for the local children’s’ soccer league. During a championship game, he calls a foul on the daughter of Jeffrey Peckerman, a foul-mouthed loose cannon who immediately lashes out at Horkman. A shouting match ensues, but that would have been the end of things had Peckerman not accidentally stumbled into Horkman’s shop the next day while on a liquor run. Peckerman steals a lemur, Horkman pursues him, and before you know it the two have been labeled terrorists and are wanted criminals. Although the two men hate each other with a passion, they’re stuck – and as they fall into one absurd situation after another, the only thing on which they can depend is that no matter how hard they try, neither man can get rid of the other guy.
The book starts out well enough. Each chapter is told by one of the two men, alternating back and forth in the first person. Horkman comes off as a little too nice, but he’s a decent sort of fellow who works hard and appreciates his life, mundane though it may be. Peckerman, by contrast, is an asshole with an anger management problem. He’s racist, homophobic, sexist – if you can think of a negative –ist he’s probably a prime example of it. The two men are night and day, and in the beginning they seem the unlikeliest of buddies. But as they are thrown into increasingly dangerous situations – joining Somali pirates, overthrowing Communist governments, broadcasting Al-Qaida videos – you expect that the two men will overcome their differences and learn to tolerate each other, if not become bosom buddies. That’s the formula, right?
Not here. In Lunatics, the two men never reach a point of reconciliation and friendship, and this is solely due to the character of Peckerman. He is a truly reprehensible individual. If there’s a moment that calls for bravery, you can count on him to do the cowardly thing. If a betrayal will save his skin, he’ll turn his back on you in a flash. He spends half the book either drunk, sh*tting himself, or both. Throughout the story, I kept waiting for him to have an epiphany, a moment of self-awareness or an awakening to a greater calling…but I got nothing. He is a terrible person from start to finish, and he doesn’t once show any sort of goodness. As I kept reading and realizing that a moment of redemption was not forthcoming, it got harder to continue with this flat caricature of a character.
A repetitious pattern sets in, too, following something along these lines: Horkman and Peckerman are kidnapped/forced into a situation they don’t want to be in. Horkman tries to do the decent thing while Peckerman tries to wuss out and/or crap himself. Against all odds, the two men succeed in thwarting the bad guys. Then, out of their control, they are whisked away to a new place and unleashed to do more damage. It is slapstick, to be sure, but the novelty wears off after the third incarnation.
It’s not all bad. There are some very funny moments sprinkled into the crazy mess, including a hilarious send-up of the frenzy of modern media coverage and the American presidential nomination/election process. But it simply isn’t worth wading through the morass of juvenile toilet humor and weak stereotypes.
I seem to have hit a real dry spell lately; I think this is the third or fourth book in a row that I’ve been decidedly unenthusiastic about.
1.5 out of 5 stars
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