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It's official; Larry the Cable Guy is the new Ernest, and critics be damned. You want smart and sophisticated? Buy The Noel Coward Collection. Larry's a populist from the "I'd rather keep my fans happy" school, and his loyal following will be ecstatic with this film's broad slapstick, what one initially offended character calls "feeble, juvenile, and bigoted" humor, and gross-out bodily function gags (nude body-cavity search, anyone?). Larry portrays a small-town deputy with dreams of becoming an FBI special agent. "I know a criminal when I see one, a rat when I smell one, and a bad moon when it rises," he drawls. When he spies a woman (Ivana Milicevic) in the company of sinister-looking, Men in Black types, he rescues the "damsel in dee-stress." However, she is a government-protected witness en route to Chicago to testify in a sensational trial of Enron proportions. "Are you insane?" she asks him. "No," he replies, "I'm Larry." The film gets plenty of mileage out of their odd coupleness. Her cell-phone ringtone is classical music; his is the theme from Green Acres. She eats salads; he gorges himself on sausage. She's a liberal (who gets off an "impeach Bush" joke) and he bleeds U.S. Red (at one point, the action pauses for a small-town "Support Our Troops" parade). Witless Protection also benefits from some oddball casting. Yaphet Kotto costars as FBI Agent Alonzo Mosely (the name of his character in the classic Midnight Run). Peter Stormare, the silent, creepy kidnapper in Fargo, portrays a corrupt businessman with an unaccountable British accent. In a baffling cameo, Joe Mantegna seems to be channeling Strother Martin, while Jenny McCarthy serves up some sass as Larry's waitress girlfriend, nuff said, and a game Eric Roberts is a goon who butts heads with Larry in an epic fight scene. Some jokes are stale (Larry dredges up Regis Philbin's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire catch-phrase), while others are current enough to reference Michael Vick and Angelina Jolie. It is a sign of artistic growth that Larry does not utter his own signature catch-phrase, so we won't either. Witless Protection was released theatrically during Oscar weekend, when Hollywood celebrates supreme achievement in film. This is what is known in the business as counter-programming. --Donald Liebenson