Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Language, Rude Dialogue and some Violence
Directed by: Les Mayfield
Written by: Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman & Stephen Carpenter
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Luke Goss, Miguel Ferrer, Susie Essman, Anthony Mackie & Gigi Rice
Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy are funny on their own, so someone might assume that THE MAN would get a few chuckles by combining the two into one movie. It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy with potential for clever, if not familiar, laughs. However, THE MAN just might be one of the lamest, laziest and most poorly written comedies to come out of the 2000’s. This film seems to be using a script that’s been collecting dust since the mid-80’s. Instead of simply being as generic as its title, THE MAN runs on a plethora of stale jokes and farts. Before getting into why this movie sucks as badly as it does, I’ll set up the premise.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Andy Fiddler is a dorky dental equipment salesman who’s visiting the city of Detroit to make an important speech at a sales convention. Agent Derrick Vann is a loose cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules. Vann’s partner was recently discovered to be dirty and deceased (gunned down by a group of dangerous arms runners). Through a sheer coincidence, Andy gets mistaken for Vann in an undercover operation. This leads to Vann having to drag the reluctant, loud-mouthed Andy along for the investigation as he tries to capture these arms dealers. Wacky, unfunny hijinks ensue.
Comedy is a hugely subjective genre. What might be hilarious to one person could be lame to someone else. This all being said, I suspect that THE MAN didn’t have many people rolling in the aisles at the movie theater or laughing out loud at home. These jokes have all been done before in countless other movies. We also get not one, but multiple fart jokes as Andy doesn’t do well with red meat. Meanwhile, the entire plot is an overly familiar mistaken identity/fish out of water story and mainly hinges on Eugene Levy. This recognizable performer is simply off his game as a bumbling goof who is far more annoying than he is funny. Some of his “highlights” include holding up an airport line to discuss a tongue scraper with a disinterested flight attendant, getting in a scuffle with a hobo over a paper bag, and getting shot in the butt. Also, I’d be remiss not to bring up those two terrible fart scenes again. The whole shtick with Levy’s Andy is that he’s constantly chatting off the ear of Samuel L. Jackson’s hard-boiled cop and driving him to his breaking point. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Jackson as Levy’s constant yammering was driving me close to shutting the movie off too.
Samuel L. Jackson is his usual badass self and a stereotypical loose cannon cop at the same time. Some of his clichés include flipping out at his superiors and meeting informants for no other reason than to get exposition while making a public spectacle of chasing them down with his car. Honestly, Jackson seems bored and isn’t the biggest problem with this movie. Other cast members include Luke Goss as the villain (the only character to elicit a single chuckle out of me), a younger Anthony Mackie as the informant, and an underused Miguel Ferrer as Jackson’s superior.
If THE MAN were simply a lame comedy, it might be a tad more tolerable than it actually is for trying to include a forced sentimental side halfway through. The screenplay (penned by three writers!) somehow tries to turn Eugene Levy’s Andy into a sympathetic do-gooder by the middle of the film in having him give life advice to Samuel L. Jackson. It goes further down this hole by trying to play off the two forming a friendship that isn’t convincing or believable, especially considering all the stuff they put each other through. On the technical side of things, the cinematography ranks with older network television procedurals and the soundtrack adds a “derpty derp” sense of blandness. Besides one chuckle that I got from the villain, the only positive thing I can say about THE MAN is that it has the decency to run at under 90 minutes. This film bombed at the box office as well as tanked with critics and audiences alike. It deserves to be forgotten in the annals of cinematic flops and I’m probably giving it more attention than I should be by writing this review.