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The Tuxedo (Frank's Take)

01/02/2003. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy The Tuxedo in the USA - or Buy The Tuxedo in the UK

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Frank reckons he would prefer a lobotomy to the punishing and mirthless antics of the new Jackie Chan lame chop-and-sock action-packed fantasy spy comedy The Tuxedo. That can't be good!

The Tuxedo (2002) DreamWorks
1 hr. 36 mins.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Issacs, Ritchie Coster, Debi Mazar, Boyd Banks, James Brown, Mia Cottet
Directed by: Kevin Donovan

Is it a nice thing to say that one would prefer a lobotomy to the punishing and mirthless antics of the new Jackie Chan lame chop-and-sock action-packed comedy The Tuxedo?

Hey, it may not be nice but it's certainly truthful. Director Kevin Donovan does mere patchwork here and even the spry and impish Chan cannot save this deflating dud with his trademark clownish karate-kicking charisma.

This boisterous blunder reinforces the notion that clothes don't necessarily make the man. The Tuxedo is ridiculously gimmicky and its flat sense of comedic timing practically buries the nutty charm of Chan. The movie feels so flaccidly manufactured and indolent that all the chopsocky movement in the world couldn't resuscitate this disjointed restive farce.

With a screenplay that is as witty and appealing as a dentist treating bleeding gums, The Tuxedo is not worth the effort. And it's disheartening to see the talent of kinetic cut-up Jackie Chan being treated as some ethnic subservient simpleton in material that fails him on so many levels.

Chan plays chauffeur Jimmy Tong, a skillful driver in the employ of dashing WASPy superagent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). When an evil-minded bottled water magnate named Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster) plots to blow up spy stud Devlin and is nearly successful in his attempt to do so, the mischievous Jimmy can't resist but to wear his hospitalized boss' James Bond-stylized animated tuxedo that has more than one gadget-prone trick up its sleeve.

And of course the movie goes for the obvious "wink wink" inside joke because we're to derive laughter from Chan's magical tux-wearing Jimmy Tong as an ordinary Joe who suddenly takes on the persona of a butt-kicking espionage do-gooder in the tradition of a fearless icon like...well...Jackie Chan!

Meanwhile, the dastardly Banning launches his full scope agenda to develop bacteria that induces a nasty thirst. Hence, this will cause terminal dryness therefore rendering the world completely vulnerable. And since Banning controls the abundance of water supply, he can literally act as the savior to the very same bacteria scare that he's conjured up in the first place.

It goes without saying that somebody has to stop the treacherous Banning before the globe succumbs to his devious scheme. Hmmm...let me guess...will the gawky Jimmy and his borrowed high-tech penguin-looking dresswear be there to save the day?

Along for the ride in the pursuit of foiling Banning's nefarious deeds is CSA Corporation operative Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt). As an agent, Del is reminiscent of a vamping bubble-brained bimbo looking to crash a booze cruise. She's as bouncy and carefree as her revealing cleavage.

Together, Jimmy and Del stumble through the proceedings as an unlikely pair of unprepared protectors trying to find a daisy in a field of chigger weeds. And when Jimmy is not trying to master the tricky tux with a mind of its own (it enables him to party hearty with the likes of funky showman James Brown on stage not to mention fight with a colorful ferocity), then the tongue-tied taxi-driver-turned-chauffeur-turned-accidental secret agent is constantly trying to get up the nerve to express his feelings for his free-spirited sexy sidekick Del.

The Tuxedo wants to embrace its goofy-minded spirit as a wayward comedy that more than welcomes an opportunity to collect mindless laughs. In many ways, it's trying to parody the endless stream of identical spy thrillers that are so prevalent.

In fact, this high-voltage vehicle is the suitable showcase for Jackie Chan as it caters to his usual high-flying campy calisthenics that have endeared him to movie audiences around the world. But The Tuxedo somehow appears so paltry and incomplete. Everything is remarkably embarrassing about this production.

The script incorporates cobbled together scenes that feature tiresome fight sequences that are simply uninspiring by Jackie Chan standards. The movie's dialogue is about as riveting and stimulating as reciting the alphabet backwards. Basically, Donovan helms this martial arts mishap by aimlessly tossing in whatever suits the clumsy comedic plot devices.

Shockingly, The Tuxedo is borderline racist in that Chan's role as the gleefully grinning server of white "master" spy Devlin is monotonously played out as some kind of Asian Steppin' Fetchit. He's like the Green Hornet's Kato but without the dignity and restraint.

And the filmmakers bog Chan's Jimmy Tong down in a series of tepid slapstick moments as a "safe" way of making him more acceptable to the affections of youngish precious pale dove Hewitt's Del Blaine. It's as if it would have been a disagreeable stretch had yellow-skinned Chan been afforded the respectability as a self-assured romantic hero capturing the fancy of youthful "desired white babe" Hewitt.

But this misfire has more flaws to consider other than dealing with the taboo love interest factor of having roguish Chan fall for Hewitt in a conventional fashion. Also, Hewitt doesn't escape criticism either as her spontaneous party girl persona is utterly distracting.

She's all over the place so much that you'd want to swing at her with a flyswatter. The film resorts to cheap-minded sex jokes and hints at Hewitt's bubbly Barbie doll tartness as a desperate running gag that ultimately loses its misplaced luster.

Overall, The Tuxedo is not a custom-made fit. This is one action comedy that is extremely exhausting and doesn't exhibit one ounce of creative moxie to propel this product beyond its anemic aspirations.

Jackie Chan fans may gain some satisfaction out of seeing the diminutive dynamo display his arsenal of hand and foot assaults. But this is one occasion where the labored hilarity in The Tuxedo clashes with Chan's cinematic worn out shoes.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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