Directed by Kevin Donovan. Starring James Brown, Peter Stormare, Ritchie Coster, Debi Mazar, Jason Isaacs, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jackie Chan. (2002, PG-13, 99 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 4, 2002
Director Donovan and writers Michael Leeson and Michael Wilson ought to be shipped off on a slow boat to China and forced to toil as unpaid fight-scene extras in the faltering Hong Kong film industry for their inexcusable crime of wasting the Peking Opera-trained talents of Jackie Chan in this dull, witless, and exhaustingly incomprehensible affair. It's akin to hiring Tiger Woods as your weekend golf ringer and relegating him to caddy duties. But worse, Chan, who has achieved legendary status over the past three decades thanks to his astounding feats of martial artistry and sly comedic skills, uses wire harness rigs for the first time that I know of and becomes completely lost amid a ridiculous story. Granted, many of the actor's previous films in Hong Kong were hardly sterling examples of filmmaking finesse (much of his early to mid-Seventies work with the Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest -- The Big Brawl, for example -- were little more than action set-pieces strung around a rickety plot and edited with all the skill of a Weed Eater), but even those pre-Handover flashbacks contain more punch than this sorry excuse for a Chan film. It's not Chan's fault, I suppose; now nearing his 50s, he's reportedly ramped up his production schedules in order to get as much mad action freneticism from his remaining years as possible. That would be understandable if Chan relied solely on his physicality to pull him through, but anyone who's seen the man in action (or out of it) knows that he pulls double duty in most of his films, weaving comedy -- often of the slapstick variety -- into many of his projects. Yet this still doesn't explain The Tuxedo, a film that very much wants to make its audience laugh but feels like a cinematic soporific that leaves you yawning when you ought to be gasping. The plot has inept chauffeur Jimmy Tong (Chan) taking the place of injured super-spy Clark Devlin (Isaacs) and teaming with CSA agent Del Blaine (Hewitt) to quash the plans of evil billionaire Diedrich Banning (Coster) for global domination via -- wait for it! -- water striders! “Water-what?!” I hear you ask. Striders, as in those tiny insects that skim across the mucky stream behind your house all summer. Who says all the good stories are taken? Certainly not writers Leeson and Wilson, who outfit Tong in the titular eveningwear, a gizmo-laden, sartorial nightmare that allows the actor to do everything but engage us. Mild-mannered and shy, the nebbishy Tong puts the kibosh on the baddies, often by pure luck, while making googley eyes at Hewitt's chesty, smartass sidekick. As Chan pictures go, this one is pure slurry, full of gags so silly they annoy even more than the pop-art dance sequences in City Hunter (at one point Tong's tux allows him to out-dance James Brown) and suffering mightily from a bad case of lowest-common-denominator scripting. Most indicative of The Tuxedo's mediocrity, however, is the absence of the always entertaining action outtakes that traditionally roll under the end credits of Chan films; here it's all dialogue flubs barely fit for Dick Clark.