Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:37 - Released 9/27/02

The Tuxedo is what you would get if you cast Jackie Chan as Inspector Gadget. The debut project of director Kevin Donovan, it is a silly and predictable mix of overblown spy intrigue, kung fu, and corny schtick, and is only marginally funny at its best. But, as usual, Chan's unpretentious charm helps to excuse a multitude of sins, and a multitude there are. Cast opposite Chan is the attractive and talented Jennifer Love Hewitt, who has moved confidently from TV's Party of Five through teen films like Can't Hardly Wait and I Know What You Did Last Summer, on to more challenging parts like the title role in The Audrey Hepburn Story (also for TV, which she also co-produced), all the way to comedies like last year's Heartbreakers. She has clearly proven she's not just a pretty face, but unfortunately her character here is written so badly there's no way she could possibly make sense of it. Actor's note: Always blame the writers.

The writers to blame are Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Michael J. Wilson, and Michael Leeson, who have crafted a script dubiously well-suited to mindless action comedy. Chan plays hapless taxi driver Jimmy Tong, whose ability to maneuver his cab recklessly through city traffic gets him a new gig as chauffeur for legendary and well-dressed spy Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). Although his new boss is friendly and easygoing, he does have one rule: Don't Touch The Tuxedo. But when he is badly injured in a bombing, he wills the suit to Jimmy, who soon finds that it is actually a prototype for the Tactical Uniform X-periment, or TUX. Clever, eh? So with the press of a button on his wristwatch, he is able to defy gravity, scale tall buildings, sing and dance like James Brown (who appears in a brief cameo), or—you guessed it—fight like Jackie Chan. He is assigned to work with high-strung agent Del Blaine (Hewitt), who thinks he is actually Clark Devlin, to expose a fiendish criminal (Ritchie Coster) bent on controlling the country's water consumption by contaminating all the available drinking water except that which is bottled by his own company.

As with most Chan films, without Chan this movie would be utter trash, but his ability to appear childlike at age 48, coupled with his ability to kick the crap out of everyone and everything in his vicinity, saves the day. However, as has become the habit of late, his high-flying acrobatics are often aided by computer effects, which, while making for some impressive visuals, kind of defeat the whole purpose of having Jackie Chan. Hewitt struggles valiantly with a character so conflicted, you don't know where her allegiances lie. One minute, she's Jimmy's friend; the next, she seems to loathe him. Then she's saving his life. Then he's saving hers, but she's still mad at him. As the villain, Coster is pure cardboard cutout. The film ends, as usual, with outtakes of Chan flubbing his lines and Hewitt laughing her head off. Cute, but it's getting a little old. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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