Fuck's IMDB page summarizes the film's aims pretty well: "A documentary on the expletive's origin, why it offends some people so deeply, and what can be gained from its use." Yes. Rad. That sounds great. Ever since I first unwittingly used the word, c. 1990, at my family's dinner table, people's reactions to the word "fuck"—and "shit," and "hell," and "damn," ad infinitum—have fascinated me. I mean it's just four letters. Arrange them in a certain order, though, and you're going to get wildly varying reactions. And while "fuck" is an exceedingly versatile and common word, there's this linguistic and cultural taboo on its use. So a documentary on the word couldn't help but be interesting, right? So—here it comes—it's really fucking frustrating that Fuck is such a piece of shit.
Instead of Fuck justifying that IMDB synopsis, it treats the word like it's a joke. Director Steve Anderson piles on cutesy songs, annoying sound effects, and uninspired animation, making Fuck feel amateurish and infantile. And despite clips of everything from routines by Lenny Bruce and George Carlin to NWA's "Fuck tha Police," Fuck never delves deeply into the word's history, repercussions, or relevance.
It wouldn't sting so much if Fuck didn't waste its great interviews—the film boasts the late Hunter S. Thompson, Sam Donaldson, Ben Bradlee, Ice-T and Chuck D, Kevin Smith, and Steven Bochco. All of these people have wrestled with censorship, and they have smart things to say. But Anderson can't focus: He also brings in Ron Jeremy and Tera Patrick, two people who fuck for a living (a tangential connection at best), and who don't have anything relevant to add. Neither does once-adorable-comedienne-turned-annoying-activist Janeane Garofalo. And when Anderson scores interviews with conservative pundits—who unconvincingly try to explain why the word is so offensive—he plays chicken sound effects over their statements.
Sure—a bit of levity is welcome, even required, with this subject matter. But Fuck is so scattershot, so cloying, and so childishly proud of its "edginess" that it actually ends up being quite dull. For a film that deals with elements of our culture and language that are so fascinating and entertaining, it's bewildering that Fuck ends up being neither.