Question: Why would anyone cast Jackie Chan in a movie that does not take full or even some advantage of his abundant physical and comedic talents?
Question: Why would anyone cast Jason Isaacs, dress him in a tuxedo, and dispense with him ten minutes later?
Question: Why would anyone cast Jennifer Love Hewitt in anything?
The Tuxedo, an action comedy worthy of neither label, is a veritable hotbed of questions like these. Most are along the lines of Why this? and Why that?, with the implication being that no one involved cared much to make a movie that didn’t completely misuse its cast, didn’t utterly abuse all sense of logical storytelling, and didn’t hold in complete contempt the idea that humor might rise above a level appreciated only by 10-year-old kung-fu fanatics suffering from attention deficit disorder. But all such queries ultimately culminate in a grand, overarching question such as one might howl at the universe when faced with such incomprehensibilities as the astounding success of Carrot Top, the existence of nonfat Cool Whip, and Tony Danza’s impending career as a recording artist. And that demand is: What the fuck?!
The germ of a fun movie is certainly lurking at the core of this sorry, sorry film. In that other movie, a hilarious reversal occurs between a snooty British secret agent and his bumbling ethnic sidekick who trade places and stations in life when the bumbling sidekick discovers the snooty agent’s big secret: an Inspector Gadget-y tuxedo that turns any old idiot into a debonair jet-setter. See, it could be funny cuz we’d see that the once suave agent is really just a dork, and that any dork could be a catch with the right clothes. And of course the formerly contentious relationship between the two men — separated by class, education, race, and previous colonialism — would undergo a dramatic revolution as each comes to more fully appreciate the other. It could be like Vice Versa, only funny and with some saving of the world and life as we know it.
I would like to trade places with the me in the alternate universe in which that Tuxedo exists.
In this universe, however, we didn’t get that movie because that movie would require what in the industry is called “characters,” and they’d have to be involved in “scenarios” that would explicate those characters and how they change… and why they need to change. In this universe, it suffices for a movie to involve special effects-assisted martial arts combat, juvenile sexual humor, and chase sequences culminating in massive explosions, though it does receive bonus points if it can also feature a complete lack of chemistry between its stars.
Jackie Chan (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) does get a chance to show some of his signature slapstick at first: as cab driver Jimmy Tong (“Tong. Jimmy Tong.” Don’t think they didn’t aim for the very obvious.), he gets chased around and through and under his cab by a big dumb brute in a scene that’s like something out of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. But the minute he puts that magic tuxedo on — bequeathed it by secret agent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs: Sweet November, The Patriot) as he lies apparently dying soon after hiring Jimmy as his driver — the FX take over, leading Jimmy around like he’s a marionette, taking him through the full gamut of urbane-spy stuff, from taking out bad guys with martial arts and, yes, walking on ceilings, to boogeying down like John Travolta and snapping to light a lady’s smoke. Half, no, most of the tuxedo’s tricks were created inside a computer, not on the set, so it all lacks the organic reality of Chan’s own amazing stuntwork.
Chan’s got personality and charm to spare, and he and Isaacs sparkle together, but instead he’s lumbered through most of the film with Jennifer Love Hewitt’s novice agent Del Blaine. Now, it’s bad enough that the script — by a committee that should be ashamed of itself — can’t decide whether Blaine is a genius, with a master plan for saving the world from the moronic plan of the film’s villain, which isn’t worth mentioning, or an idiot, who actually believes that Jimmy Tong is Clark Devlin. (A certain lack of knowing what direction it’s going in characterizes the entire movie.) Worse is that Hewitt has no idea who her character is either, and isn’t smart enough to play the script’s inanities to her advantage. A better actor could have had fun with Blaine’s wild swings — Hewitt turns Blaine’s arrogance into shrill harpyness and her, ahem, seductiveness into a slutty high schooler’s attempts to get laid at the prom.
The Society for the Prevention of Jennifer Love Hewitt Ever Appearing in Another Film is now forming at LoveHurts.com. Won’t you join us?
Oh, the squirming, the restlessness, the lost hour and a half. They left it open for a sequel. When does the next bus to that alternate universe leave?