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Ricky Stanicky

In this new comedy, three 30-something pals hire an unhinged actor (John Cena) to impersonate the imaginary friend they’ve all been using to get out of work, family commitments and trouble since childhood

While psychology’s take on the benefits and drawbacks of having an imaginary friend have varied over the years, most research has broadly agreed that it can help a child with their empathy and emotional intelligence later in life. But what about adults with imaginary friends? Further to that point, what happens when three grown men all share the same imaginary friend?

Prime Video’s new film Ricky Stanicky boldly attempts to answer those questions by way of deceit, crass humour and a whole lot of situational absurdity. Starring professional wrestler-turned-actor John Cena (Peacemaker) in the title role (kind of), the R-rated comedy takes a seemingly innocent childhood prank and places it square into the centre of adulthood. But, in order to explain how Cena only “kind of” stars as Ricky, it is important to understand the plot.

Ricky Stanicky on Prime Video. Pictured: Best pals Wes (Jermaine Fowler), Dean (Zac Efron) and J.T. (Andrew Santino) create a monster when they bring their imaginary friend/get-out-of-jail-free card to life.
Prime Video

According to Prime’s synopsis, “when three childhood best friends pull a prank gone wrong, they invent the imaginary Ricky Stanicky to get them out of trouble! Twenty years after creating this ‘friend,’ [the trio] still use the nonexistent Ricky as a handy alibi for their immature behaviour.”

Unfortunately for carried-away schemers Dean (Zac Efron), J.T. (Andrew Santino) and Wes (Jermaine Fowler), however, things get complicated when their families and significant others become suspicious of this mysterious pal and begin asking more pointed questions. When many of their loved ones demand to meet the infamous Ricky, the 30-something friends consider that it may be time to give up the ghost and come clean. Instead, fearing a backlash that could well cause them to lose everything from their families’ trust to their otherwise happy marriages, the guys cook up a much zanier plan: hire someone to play Ricky Stanicky in real life.

Thus enters Cena as “raunchy celebrity impersonator ‘Rock Hard’ Rod,” hired by the men to embody the “friend” that has been getting them all out of boring outings, family obligations and work for the past 20 years. Yet nothing this tricky is made to last, and “when Rod takes his role of a lifetime too far, they begin to wish they’d never invented Ricky in the first place.”

Ricky Stanicky on Prime Video. Pictured: Oscar-nominee William H. Macy as Dean’s boss, Summerhayes.
Prime Video

Based on an original story concept-turned-screenplay by David Occhino (Movie 43) and new talent Jason Decker, Santino’s Disaster Artist co-star James Franco was originally tapped to play Ricky during the early stages of development in 2010. As the film progressed (and spent a couple years on the Hollywood Black List of best-liked unmade screenplays), Franco was removed from the project and other actors, including Jim Carrey and Joaquin Phoenix, were considered for the role that ultimately went to Cena.

In September 2022, entertainment news site Deadline reported that There’s Something About Mary and Green Book director Peter Farrelly was “in talks” with Efron and Cena regarding the film; the article, written by Mike Fleming, Jr., noted that “Ricky Stanicky will be in the spirit of the raucous comedies he made with brother Bobby that include Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene and Dumb and Dumber.”

With Efron and Cena locked in as the film’s leads as of late 2022/early 2023, production on Ricky Stanicky finally began after more than 12 years in the discussion phase.

Additional cast members now include William H. Macy as Dean’s boss, Summerhayes; Florida Man actress Lex Scott Davis as Dean’s partner, Erin; and Big Sky’s Anja Savcic as J.T.’s pregnant wife, Susan.

Ricky Stanicky, I think, is just a hilarious movie,” Farrelly told Deadline prior to production, adding, “and it [has] a great message, not just a bunch of hard-R laughs.”

Farrelly also compared the film to one of his most popular raunchy comedies, saying: “There’s Something About Mary, ultimately, is about true love. There were many times when Ted, the Ben Stiller character, would have just backed off, except he was in love . . . He still wants to find her because he loves her, and that’s the ultimate message. The message of Ricky Stanicky is somewhat different, but I think it will resonate.”

Ricky Stanicky, begins streaming Thursday, March 7 on Prime Video

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