The Tuxedo

Movie Information

Genre: Action Comedy
Director: Kevin Donovan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Ritchie Coster, Peter Stormare
Rated: PG-13

The Tuxedo starts with a beautiful pastoral scene involving a deer urinating into a stream that feeds a bottled water factory — and goes downhill. It’s been obvious for some time that the studio knew they had a stinker on their hands — the summer release date kept getting pushed back while they fiddled with it. Even before that, it was apparent that the tailoring for The Tuxedo was shy a few stitches. The premise of Jackie Chan becoming a super secret agent (“Tong…James Tong”) by donning a multi-million dollar high-tech suit probably sounded good when it was pitched, but no one seems to have realized that it had the same drawback inherent in the Jet Li vehicle, The One. What’s the point of having a world-class martial arts expert star in a movie where 90% of the amazing feats are special effects? Why Jet Li or Jackie Chan? With elaborate wire-work and CGI jiggery-pokery you could turn the late Walter Brennan into a martial arts marvel. This is like hiring Fred Astaire and replacing his hoofing with a computerized simulation.

It could still work as a movie — if the movie itself was something better than a personality vehicle. But The Tuxedo scarcely works even on that level. Remove Chan’s innately likable screen persona from the mix and you’re left with almost nothing. Chan has mistakenly allowed himself to be cast as a good-hearted, love-sick, tongue-tied stumblebum. We all know the man is pushing 50, and this is simply embarassing. Casting him opposite the 23 year old Jennifer Love Hewitt only worsens the situation. It’s not that such a pairing is impossible to fathom — it’s the pairing of Hewitt with the character Chan’s playing.

The plot falls between incoherent and just plain awful. Here’s the pitch: Criminal mastermind, arch-fiend, and bottled-water mogul Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster, 15 Minutes) plans on taking over the world by contaminating all water supplies with a virus or poison or something that causes drinkers to dehydrate and crumble to dust faster than The Mummy in the Mojave.

The plan is simplicity itself: he’ll transmit the whatever-it-is on the feet of water striders that will be led (I still don’t know how) to the various sources by a “queen” water strider (no such thing in the arthropod world). In a way, I kind of admire a plot like this, redolent of those lunatic scenarios in 1940s Bela Lugosi pictures where Bela does things like exact revenge on his enemies with giant bats attracted to his special after-shave (“Just rub it on the tender part of your neck”). It may be even more absurd, since it’s never made clear just how Banning plans on keeping the striders out of his water supply. If he can’t keep a deer from taking a whiz in his spring, how is he going to keep something as tiny as a water strider out of it?

For that matter, no one considers the effect on the world’s animal life. And isn’t it going to impact the vegetation? Are we supposed to think while watching this movie?

Probably not. All that matters is that Jackie puts on the special suit and saves the world. The Tuxedo barely skates by on the strength of Chan’s personality, but that’s not saying much. And for a supposed comedy, the film is shy on gags — too concerned with its convoluted plot to worry about laughs. The funniest moment in The Tuxedo involves Chan inadvertently knocking out James Brown, but that’s in the trailer. Chan’s subsequent impersonation of Brown isn’t bad either, but goes on way too long. Jennifer Love Hewitt proved the limitations of her acting skills in the trailer and enduring her entire performance merely ungilds the plastic lily. The outtakes at the end of the film aren’t funny either, but are instructive evidence of the extent of post-production tampering — several comprise scenes that aren’t in the final cut. It’s not hard to see why. A shame they didn’t cut out the other 90 minutes.

– reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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