The Austin Chronicle

Double Take

Rated PG-13, 88 min. Directed by George Gallo. Starring Orlando Jones, Eddie Griffin, Vivica A. Fox, Gary Grubbs, Edward Herrmann, Shawn Elliott, Brent Briscoe, Daniel Roebuck.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Jan. 12, 2001

Touchstone Pictures calls Double Take “a Trading Places for the new millennium.” Sure, it's got a scene on a train, a prince-and-the-pauper switcheroo, a story that's more or less about investment-banking tomfoolery, and even a certain amount of urban edge. But if the tagline proves true, this comedy caper signals a thousand-year downtick. Blame the muzzy plot, a slapdash mix of narrative switchbacks, thin characterizations, and cheesy action scenes assembled by writer/director George Gallo, who's taken a long fall from his script for the infinitely more polished and cohesive 1988 road romp Midnight Run. Herein, a Manhattan investment banker (7-Up pitchman Orlando Jones) takes the heat in a broadly sketched money laundering scheme involving a bogus soda company with ties to a recently bumped-off Mexican governor. Two or three contrivances later, he's wanted for murders he didn't commit, pursued by multiple pairs of mysterious thugs on varying sides of the law, and thrown together on the lam with the “internationally known” Freddy Tiffany (Griffin), a streetwise con man with whom he swaps identities. Moreover, Freddy totes around an irascible lap dog, Dolores (animal actor Willow), who gets a big laugh when she gets wet and barks “in Spanish.” The script is so hyperactively busy that it doesn't give either of the leads much room to breathe; Gallo slams them from one implausible plot twist to another at a metronomic pace. It's too bad -- both Griffin and Jones are perfectly likable, engaging performers who display plenty of chemistry on the few occasions when they're allow to relax and hold a scene. There's a nice moment where Jones, who's taken a ribbing for his Buppie ways, noisily demands a Schlitz Malt Liquor in the train's tony dining car, causing both men to drop their pretenses and actually listen to each other. (He has to settle for a tall boy of Colt .45, proudly proffered by the waiter with a sommelier's flourish.) But they're better than their material, which hews closely to the crowd-pleasing buddy-comedy formula of producer Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), whose heavy hand is easily detectable in Gallo's workmanlike machinations. There's the straight man and his motormouthed urban foil (like Ratner alumnus Chris Tucker, Griffin is so larger-than-life and unrestrained that he barely fits in the movie). Various eye-candy female supporting players log screen time in perfunctory roles (Garcelle Beauvais as Jones's underwear-model girlfriend; Vivica A. Fox as a character so marginal that the pronunciation of her name varies from scene to scene). And the movie flirts with the convivial tastelessness of a lowbrow farce but can't quite commit, aside from some equal-opportunity racial caricatures (Griffin taunts a Mexican-American agent about “liking leaf blowers and lawns”) and offhand jokes about Rodney King and Amadou Diallo that land as gracefully as ball-peen hammers. Still, when the movie gives its stars a chance to be funny, there's a laugh or two to be had, as when Jones and Griffin riff out loud on a scene of egregious Pepsi product placement second only to the Regal Cinemas' pre-show feature.

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