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'Tuxedo, The'

Jackie Chan goes down kicking in 'Tuxedo'

Friday, September 27, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

"The Tuxedo" recycles one of humanity's most durable fantasies, that certain items we wear or carry can make us invincible or convey special powers. Samson had his hair. King Arthur had Excalibur. TV's "Greatest American Hero" had his incredible alien suit.

'The Tuxedo'

RATING: PG-13 for action violence, sexual content and language.

STARRING: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs.

DIRECTOR: Kevin Donovan.

WEB SITE: www.dreamworks.com


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Jackie Chan has the Tuxedo. Unfortunately, it could not protect him from starring in a movie with a nonsensical story and incompetent direction.

Those expecting a martial-arts film or an action comedy in the typical Chan mold will find mere fragments of those genres in "The Tuxedo," which ultimately tries to be a James Bond spoof that comes about three "Austin Powers" movies late and many million dollars short.

The film stays true to Chan's modus operandi in one respect. His character, a cab driver named Jimmy Tong (alas, he does eventually introduce himself as "Tong -- James Tong"), is an accidental hero, a working-class bumbler who reluctantly finds greatness thrust upon him.

A sarcastic passenger (Debi Mazar) puts him through a high-speed driving test that results in Jimmy's being hired as chauffeur to the rich and mysterious Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), a debonair secret agent.

When the villains manage to put Devlin out of commission, he tells Jimmy to put on the tux and search for the bad guys. The chauffeur would be utterly out of his league except for the formal wear, a sophisticated scientific device that gives the wearer special powers -- fighting skills, sharpshooting abilities, walking up walls, shaking your booty like J. Lo with fleas.

The criminal mastermind, Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster), is a "megalomaniacal bottled-water tycoon." I added the quotation marks so you know I'm not making this up. He plans to corner the market by poisoning natural water supplies to force everyone to buy his product.

This makes about as much sense as the fact that this dour, utterly humorless man with no personality -- how many movie villains can you name who threaten to disappear into the woodwork? -- shows up with a bimbo on his arm at a James Brown concert (we don't even get to see the Godfather of Soul perform!) and throws a glamorous party at his home/secret lab on the night he plans to hatch his scheme.

And that makes about as much sense as the spy agency choosing an inexperienced scientist, Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt), to go into the field with Devlin on such an important case. They don't know Jimmy has taken Devlin's place, resulting in two bumbling newbies working together.

Naturally, they bicker -- or Del does, carping at everything Jimmy does even when he's fighting off bad guys who are trying to strangle him. At least Hewitt tries gamely to play for laughs while clad for much of the film in an evening gown. The movie displays a leering streak of misogyny in the attitudes of the guys in the spy office, in Del's whining, in Banning's bimbo (Mia Cottet) lusting after Jimmy, who seems terrified she might succeed.

Director Kevin Donovan, a first-time filmmaker and (all together now) "award-winning commercial director," certainly comes off as someone who had never shot anything more than 60 seconds in length. "The Tuxedo" lurches from scene to scene, often failing to connect the dots and leaving us wondering what just happened and why.

Screenwriters Michael J. Wilson and Michael Leeson, who have done good work in the past, compound the felony by making the characters subservient to the gadgetry. When Chan finally gets to unleash his action chops, it all seems fake and mechanical. He never loses his bewilderment or gains any confidence in himself. The movie does not fulfill even the minimum requirement for character development.

Jimmy is the empty suit, it turns out. The tuxedo looks like it would do very well on its own.

Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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