Simon Sez

1999, PG-13, 83 min. Directed by Kevin Elders. Starring Natalia Cigliuti, Jerome Pradon, John Pinette, Ricky Harris, Dane Cook, Emma Sjoberg, Dennis Rodman.

REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Oct. 1, 1999

Ain't capitalism great? Armed with only marginal (at best) résumés and the fading notoriety of a cross-dressing NBA power forward, the makers of this film somehow managed to scam their way into a long working vacation in France and a bigger paycheck than you or I are likely to see in a lifetime of honest toil. So hats off to producer Rudy Cohen and director Kevin Elders (whose only previous credits are as a co-writer of the Iron Eagle series) for their brass-balled success in exploiting the credulous moneybags of Hollywood. But let's not confuse respect for these guys' dealmaking moxie with approval of said deal's actual results. Simon Sez may not be the worst action movie ever made; the recent output of former Rodman co-star Jean Claude Van Damme saves it from that distinction. It is, however, darned hard to beat in terms of sheer pointlessness. With its uncompelling star (Rodman, for all his superficial “outrageousness” has always been a strangely affectless personality), sub-Nickelodeon efforts at humor, and uninspired action sequences, this is quintessential straight-to-video filmmaking, token theatrical release notwithstanding. The story, in case you're actually interested, deals with the efforts of a suave Interpol agent named Simon (Rodman) to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a rich American business mogul. His sidekicks are buffoonish wannabe spy named Nick (Cook, basically playing a Caucasian version of Chris Tucker's annoying character from Money Talks) and a couple of computer-hacking monks (standup comics Harris and Pinette). It's mostly comic-bookish stuff, with a few stylistic borrowings from Sean Connery-era James Bond flicks -- most notably the appearance of Swedish fashion model Sjoberg as Rodman's kickboxing antagonist/love interest. The overall effect is a whacked-out blend of Sixties-vintage Bond, old Marvel comics, and latter-day Jackie Chan, only with far less wit or energy than those comparisons might suggest. To Elder's credit, he does a nice job of minimizing Rodman's stark limitations as a thespian. Restricting the hopelessly out-of-his depth hoopster to five- and six-word utterances and seldom asking him to do more than play straight man to the manic Cook, he creates a comfort zone in which Rodman can stick to his core skills of smirking, mugging affably, and looking good with his shirt off. (In fairness to Rodman, it has to be said that he fares at least as well as an actor as Connery would trying to set a pick on Dikembe Mutombo.) But all this pretty much goes without saying, right? One hopes that no one goes to Dennis Rodman's films with any hope for more than an eyeful of the aforementioned physique or a desire to express general approval of the idea of a macho sports idol who also happens to be a quirky, free-spirited, gay-friendly individualist. If that's your angle, more power to you. Me, I'll stick to appreciating Worm Rodman in his true and natural element: the 96-foot hardwood floor.

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