Code Name: The Cleaner
2007, PG-13, 91 min. Directed by Les Mayfield. Starring Cedric the Entertainer, Lucy Liu, Nicollette Sheridan, Will Patton, Mark Dacascos, Callum Keith Rennie.
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., Jan. 12, 2007
For anyone venturing to see Code Name: The Cleaner, it will be hard to remember that Cedric the Entertainer (The Original Kinds of Comedy, The Honeymooners) is actually funny. Or rather, he can be. In this entirely forgettable comedy from the director who brought us Encino Man, the talented comedian mugs his way through an utterly deflated film. Cedric plays Jake, a janitor who unwittingly becomes entangled in superspy espionage. When Jake wakes up in a strange hotel room with a dead FBI agent, he can’t remember who he is, how he got there or possibly why on Earth he agreed to be in this movie. Wandering into the hotel lobby, he’s accosted by the ever-strapping Sheridan (Desperate Housewives) who insists that she’s his wife and takes him home to a sprawling mansion only to seduce and nearly kill the confused Jake. He escapes and, in the process, becomes increasingly convinced that he’s a superspy on a secret mission. There’s some business about a computer chip, video game manufacturers, and double-crossing FBI agents, but it’s all just the silliness on which to hang Cedric’s antics. He performs with a group of Dutch dancers, displays ridiculous karate moves, and attacks people with plungers, all the while insisting that he’s a trained killer while his memory remains blank. Ultimately, the jokes just aren’t funny, and the whole effort becomes lazy with predictability and cheap shots. Echoes of both Fletch and Trading Places abound, though I hesitate to mention such classics in reference to this dud. Whereas those films displayed truly talented comedians in engaging stories, this effort puts a gifted comedian in a ridiculous, poorly written, and tedious plot. Sheridan and Liu (Charlie’s Angels) perform adequately in roles that offer little depth and less comedic possibility. The most poignant point in the whole painful endeavor is when the credits roll. It’s here that we see the outtakes and watch Cedric riffing as he improvs variations on his dialogue. These outtakes are genuinely funny, standing as reminders that the last 90 minutes were a sad waste of talent.