Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Man


A Waste of Time and Talent

“Comedy is a serious business.”--W.C. Fields

It’s a difficult one as well. When was the last time you really laughed during a movie? How about all the way through one? What was the last ‘buddy film’ you really enjoyed? When was the last time you guffawed over the average guy being mistaken for a criminal? All of these things really stack up against The Man, a barely-funny, unoriginal ‘comedy’ that squanders the pairing of Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy.

Nerdy dental supplier Andy Fidler (Levy) is on his way to Detroit to give a speech at a convention. Tougher-than-nails ATF Agent Derrick Vann (Jackson) is on the trail of a load of guns stolen out from under his nose which resulted in the death of his partner. The two meet when Andy is mistaken as the buyer of the guns in a meeting Vann arranged. Hilarity ensues as Vann commandeers Andy to continue the masquerade so he can bring the baddies to justice. Laughing yet?

This could have been a good movie. The casting is great. The script, on the other hand, isn’t. What we get is Levy doing his stock dork routine (which gets annoying fast) and Jackson again doing a hard-bitten type, complete with scars and tattoos. Put these polar opposites together and it’s funny, right? Nope. Since we’ve seen this stuff in countless other, and better movies, there is little to get excited about here.

Consider the scene when Levy is mistaken for a robber in the diner he is in. He pulls a gun out of a bag left as a “sample” from the bad guy. As soon as the gun comes out, the waitress drops her service tray and screams “He’s got a gun!”. Of course, everyone in the diner turns to see Levy who responds “what gun?” He then sees the gun in his hand, looks shocked, then begins waving the gun around like a moron exclaiming, “This isn’t my gun!” Funny, huh? The whole movie feels that way--recycled and forced.

I’m not even going to mention the “tender moments” that feel shoe horned in between the attempted comedy and the violence and profanity (three uses of the “F-word” seem a bit much for an PG-13 movie). It’s as if the writers want to appeal to every audience demographic, but end up pleasing no one. Levy and Jackson try, but a movie sinks or swims on the quality of the screenplay, and The Man is a sinker.

Despite my low rating, I can’t say that I hated this movie. It does have a few funny scenes. Witness Levy’s reaction when the gunrunner tries to give him the bag with “the taste” inside. Or when Levy gives Jackson a lecture about swearing too much. Or the scene when Levy, impersonating “The Man”, passes off Jackson as “his bitch”. Those scenes were funny, but they consume about 5 minutes in an 80 minute movie. The rest of the time it just lies there.

It’s easy to tell if you like a comedy or not. Compare the number of times you laughed versus the number of times you looked at your watch. Which number is higher? The Man fails this test, and just about every other one I can come up with.

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