On MTV, Pauly Shore has always struck me as a loathsome creature: a comic whose lack of innocence seems poisonously calculated. Dropping dudespeak in his lazy reptilian drone (this is a man who can’t even be bothered to finish his words), flashing the horny imp’s leer that, beneath his hippie-surfer frizz, makes him look like the demented offspring of Dick Cavett and Paul Simon, he acts as if he were a star by sheer entitlement. He’s the rude essence of Southern California narcissism — a man-child who never outgrew his pacifier.
Having said all that, I got a dozen good giggles out of Son-in-Law, Shore’s first starring vehicle, in which he plays a collegiate burnout who spends Thanksgiving break on a farm along with the family of his new freshman babe (actually, they’re just good friends). This may be the first time in his career that Shore doesn’t seem to be lording it over his audience. The plot is the usual fish-out-of-water nonsense — it’s Pauly Goes to Green Acres, complete with a scene of him riding a pig — but this cut-rate no-brainer does succeed in making his stoned baby-talk put-downs seem cuddly-funny instead of merely smarmy. Sidling up to his girlfriend’s mother, he says, ”I don’t mean to be rude, Mrs. Warner, but you’re giving me a semi,” and the hilarious thing is that he means it: It’s his honest attempt at a respectable compliment. In ”Son-In-Law,” Pauly Shore is like MTV’s missing Marx Brother; call him Sleazo. For once, he makes being utterly shameless seem halfway likable.