In his past American films, Jackie Chan has been paired with Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour" and "Rush Hour 2
," and Owen Wilson in "Shanghai Noon." In "The Tuxedo," a goofy action-comedy directed by first-timer Kevin Donovan, Chan is partnered alongside the young and curvaceous Jennifer Love Hewitt (2001's "Heartbreakers
"). Such an unlikely pairing may, at first, seem just a little out-of-place, but Chan and Hewitt surprisingly make an amiable team who elicit what fun there is to be had in such a preposterous, insignificant trifle of a movie.
Forgoing his characters' usually keen martial arts abilities, Chan stars as shy cab driver Jimmy Tong. When he is hired by the straightforward Steena (Debi Mazar) to act as chauffeur for secret agent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), Jimmy giddily accepts. When Clark, who is investigating a conspiracy by megalomaniac Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster) to poison the world's water supply, is severely injured, Jimmy finds himself taking over the identity of Clark. He is aided in his quest to stop Banning's plan by a technologically enhanced tuxedo and a sassy partner, CSA rookie Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt).
"The Tuxedo" is one-half oddball fantasy concoction and one-half conventional action flick. The twist is that the usually skilled Jackie Chan here gets to play someone who only becomes a butt-kicking hero when he wears the tuxedo. "The Tuxedo" has some undeniable entertainment value, particularly involving the tricks that the suit always has up its sleeve, and several hearty moments of good-natured humor. Chan is charmingmaybe even more than usualand Jennifer Love Hewitt displays energy and a tangibly effective sense of comedic timing. It wouldn't hurt her to increase her eating habits a little, and I don't believe she could ever pass for the bookish type she is supposed to be playing, but she really is quite good, nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Chan and Hewitt are let down by a screenplay (credited to Michael J. Wilson and Michael Leeson) that is has no real substance to speak of, and even less in the way of comprehensibility. Since the movie is probably not supposed to be taken seriously, that lays off some of the burden, but the specifics of the premise are so utterly ridiculous and underdeveloped that it comes off as an afterthought.
"The Tuxedo" offers marginal enjoyment for its 97 minutes (which go by so fast, by the way, the film comes off as if it's missing a middle act), but just as Jimmy Tong's fighting abilities vanish when he takes off the suit, so does the movie from the viewer's mind once the end credits have rolled. The action scenes are nothing to write home about, so what we virtually have are a string of comic setpieces without anywhere worthwhile to take them. Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt are appealing performers, both together and apart. If they ever co-star with each other again someday, let's hope there is a screenplay to go along with their hard work.
©2002 by Dustin Putman