John Cena and Zac Efron talk “Ricky Stanicky”

Left to right: John Cena and Zac Efron promote their upcoming comedy film “Ricky Stanicky” with Amazon Prime on February 13, 2024 in Los Angeles. Photo Credit to Rebecca Cabage/Invasion/AP

“Ricky Stanicky,” a laugh-out-loud comedy starring accomplished comedians John Cena and Zac Efron, comes to Amazon Prime Video on March 7. After a close group of friends accidentally set fire to a house during a prank, young Dean (Zac Efron, “High School Musical”) adopts a fourth imaginary friend named Ricky Stanicky as the fall guy. Since then, he and his friends have used Ricky Stanicky as a free pass to do whatever they wanted. Their latest ruse interferes more than expected when JT’s (Andrew Santino, “Dave”) wife goes into labor early, causing him to miss his son’s birth. She and the rest of their family and friends start to suspect Ricky Stanicky is imaginary when they realize they have never met him, prompting Dean to call on their unhinged acquaintance from the trip, questionable actor “Rock Hard” Rod (John Cena, “WWE Smackdown!”) to pretend to be Stanicky. Although he masterfully becomes Stanicky, his newfound life is taken too far, and Dean and his friends begin to regret meeting him. 

As the film unfolds, “Ricky Stanicky” reveals itself to be more than a comedy. It speaks on second chances, honesty with oneself and others and the impact of close relationships. John Cena and Zac Efron teamed up to talk about their experiences shooting “Ricky Stanicky” and what the film meant to them.

The interview began by asking them, “What are your guys’ thoughts about second chances and if they have impacted you since this film is about giving people another chance?”

Cena said, “Here’s my perspective on second chances. No one is perfect, so every beating heart I believe appreciates what a second chance is. If you show me a person that lives a perfect life, I’ll show you a lie. So, I think that is an important message and an important takeaway…My perspective on second chances is that I just try not to be aloof to when they arise. I try to notice when they exist and work everyday to try to manufacture a second chance.”

“I’m stealing that answer for the rest of my life…I have nothing else to add,” Efron said.

Journalists followed this reflection by calling for a deeper analysis of how the film’s themes relate to Cena and Efron’s lives. One asked, “As this movie was comedic gold, it also had a lot of themes of identity and legacy. So, did playing these roles change your own perspectives on friendship, honesty and even facing your own consequences for your actions?”

Efron replied, “I think the friendship and loyalty aspects are one of the first things that really drew me to the script in general. These guys are really telling a rather big lie, and it’s hard to pull that off and still like the characters and root for them, and I think that’s what Peter Farrelly does so well in this movie. He tows the line. These guys are doing it out of loyalty and love for one another to protect each other, and I think that’s what I value most in friendships. Hopefully, everyone else does too.”

Cena said, “You talked about friendship; you talked about honesty, and you talked even more importantly about accountability. Those hit right down the wheelhouse of my value system. I believe we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. I finally got to a place where I’m comfortable expressing love in my life and accepting love from others, and I have been very much fulfilled since that point arrived. I believe if you operate with honesty, it establishes you to communicate. A lot of relationships that fail and a lot of negotiations that fail are simply because of lack of communication which can be said of lack of honesty. And then accountability is huge. When something goes wrong in our lives, it’s real easy to do this (pointing to others) because that means we don’t have to fix anything. But if we do this (pointing to yourself), that means we can work on self and become a better person. So when you talk about friendship and honesty and accountability, I’m listening to your radio station.”

The next question focused on Cena and his relation to his character, Rod. “I’m sure your career has had a lot of ups and downs. Did Ricky’s or Rod’s story really resonate with you?”

Cena said, “The story of the  transformation from Rod to Ricky is one that is very close to my heart as my life is just a serendipitous bunch of happy accidents. I wasn’t supposed to be a wrestler. I’m certainly not supposed to be here. I didn’t train my whole life for these things. The opportunity has fallen into my lap and I’ve just tried to be present and understanding that it’s here…I still have a lot to learn. I still seek out wisdom everyday. I know I’m not perfect. I still know there’s room for improvement, and it takes 20 years of dedication and passion and obsession to craft and time and effort and mistakes to get going. The takeaway I’d love you to have is if you’re loving what you do just mix it with a whole lot of perseverance and you never know what can happen.”

The questions shifted towards addressing the comedy within the film, with reporters asking, “Which was the hardest scene for you guys to film in terms of not breaking character?”

Cena said, “Thanks for throwing the humor curveball right down the plate; I appreciate it. For me, it was the airport scene because I mainly just had to piss myself and then cover up for it by saying ‘It’s not what you think. It’s just piss.’” 

“It was hard for us too because he improvised it,” Efron added

“That line for some reason I just couldn’t get around because I’m waiting for the payoff, the ‘it’s not what you think’ and the payoff of ‘it’s just piss’ was very funny and very hard to keep a straight face through that line,” Cena said

“For me it was all John’s impressions. That was the first day of filming when he does that line of impressions. We were off camera just losing it. Then there is also a scene where I have to fight a duck in a lake in a chemical pond. It was pretty ridiculous. It was hard to fight that duck. It was a fake duck,” Efron said.

Efron’s partnership makes for an enjoyable watch. There are never any villains or distracting trails within the storyline. The entire film revolves around their budding friendship and the hilarious character arcs that Cena makes realistic. The writing of “Ricky Stanicky” is transformative, making activities such as a goose blocking a golf ball or a baby’s bris into momentous occasions full of radical humor. This is also thanks to the massively talented cast and costume designers. “Ricky Stanicky” is an entertaining watch that is sure to keep you on your toes.