by Natasha Theobald
It seemed kinda brilliant. Take the brash humor of Eddie Murphy and pair him with the low-key, witty sensibility of an Owen Wilson. The contrast will make for magic, right? Throw in some action, a hot woman - pure gold, no? No. Not quite.Owen Wilson stars as a spy who has yet to get his due. He wants to be top of the heap, but, more often than not, he finds himself at the bottom, covered in something stinky and fighting bullets to get out. He is anxious for a new assignment as it will pair him with a woman he likes, played by Famke Jannsen. Unfortunately, the job he gets includes cozying up to a flamboyant boxer he just happens to hate, played by Eddie Murphy. The boxer, it seems, is the only one who can get the spies close enough to the bad guy, by taking them as guest and driver to a party, to see what he is doing in his evil, high-ceiling den. Wouldn't you know, though, the boxer becomes handy in other ways and winds up pairing up with Wilson to meet the demands of the greater mission.
"Was this comedy built from the bits out?"
This is a comedy, so I am willing to forgive most of the problems which arise in the storyline. Let's just say that almost nothing about the set-up or the pay-off of the premise proves to be very funny. Nary a chuckle-worthy moment in sight, I'm afraid. The jokes that do work, then, are incidental, an off-the-cuff remark here or silly face there, what have you. The two leads are funny guys, but the unfunny movie sinks their charm into the sewer, the site of probably five good minutes of screen time filled with banter - dialogue meant to bring the characters closer together as men, comrades, friends. Whatever. Stinky sewer water humor is also not funny.
So, maybe the movie works as an action flick with some comedy thrown in. I'd have to say that isn't really the case. There is action, but the car chases and near-crashing of planes just feel gimmicky, like a plastic toy from McDonald's. Things blow up. Yawn. People chase each other for far too long. Call me when it's over.
Then, you have the flirtation between Owen Wilson and Famke Jannsen, which is never allowed off the ground. They seem playful together, but the scene where something might finally happen seems oddly staged. The mid-seduction cut-off seems fabricated, expected, and it zaps the scene of its fun and energy. It also is cut together awkwardly - blanket on, blanket off - too goofy.On the positive side, the sets are good, and the picture is crisp and colorful. Because I love Owen Wilson, I cannot give this movie just one star, though it wouldn't deserve two without him. Let's just hope that lessons were learned and that the worthy careers will lose this from their resumes.
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originally posted: 03/23/04 10:28:19