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What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Starring Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito
Screenplay by Matthew Chapman and Barry Fanaro
Based on the novel by Donald Westlake
Directed by Sam Weisman

IN SHORT: Comedy Talent saves Crap Script. [Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. 98 minutes]

For some reason, the makers of this film decided that their soundtrack should feature a version of "Whatever Lola Wants" (from the Broadway play Damn Yankees) playing over and over again in the movie. There is no character named Lola, or Doja as the credits insist, nor is there any appearance by the Evil One or any character doing an imitation of the Horny One. It doesn't make any sense, which pretty much sums up What's The Worst That Could Happen? if you look at the overall movie as one lump of celluloid. If you go sequence by sequence you'll probably laugh your butt off, most of the time. That being said, we officially present What's The Worst That Could Happen? with the 2001 Worst Television Commercial Promotional Campaign Award, for teevee spots promoting this comedy which featured zero (count 'em: 0) jokes of any kind, and even less of a hint as to what the film is supposed to be about.

It's about love, of course. All movies are (or so we are taught in film school). In this case it's the "at first sight aka whacks you with a hammer" kind of love, for industrious, hardworking upper-class thief Kevin Caffrey (Martin Lawrence) and his exotic lady Amber Bellhaven (Carmen Ejogo). Kevin has got great taste in the houses he boosts. He's partial to hanging out at art auctions and scoping out the wares before he "goes to work". This is where we're supposed to make a crass remark about the piece he picks up at the auction that opens this movie, but we'll pass.

How Kevin wins Amber's heart should have brought the police into the flick from the start -- we watch too many cop teevee shows -- but it doesn't, so our happy loving couple with no moral values moves on. She gives He a ring once owned by her Dad. This lucky charm brings Good Fortune and all that stuff, until Kevin and his partner, Berger (John Leguizamo) break into a supposedly empty house owned by bankrupt rich guy Max Fairbanks (Danny DeVito). Not only is the house occupied, in this case by Miss September (Sascha Knopf) getting "acting instructions" from the worm of a rich guy but, as our upstanding young thief is being carted away by the police, rich guy lays claim to the Lucky Charm on said thief's finger. Max is as randy as he is rich, and he's just as big a thief as Kevin is. There you have it, What's The Worst That Could Happen? explained. One ripped off thief who wants his ring back.

So, what is so difficult about getting a joke into a teevee spot to clue in the rest of us? It has to do with the age old problem of adapting novels into films. This one barely makes sense as it plays out, held together by the writing of comedy writers working overtime and comedy actors doing the same. Every joke worth lifting is peppered by language not appropriate for prime time, which is why parents who think their single digit kidlets are mature enough for a PG-13 rated movie should leave the tykes at home.

As Kevin lays claim to the various houses owned by the not nearly as bankrupt as the word implies Max, a battle of wits ensues. Max's security chief (Larry Miller) lays traps as Kevin's computer hacking buddy (GQ) pierces the veil of Max's eMail life, as said target prepares to tell a Senate subcommittee that television monopolies are a good thing. Said testimony is where we learn that Max may be rich but he's as dumb as a clam. As funny as the scene is, it's only another step in a filmscript running out of control.

That is definitely the case for actress Glenne Headly, who may be Max's advisor or psychic tarot card reader (or all of the above) or lawyer or something else. Her character, whatever it is, is poorly introduced and poorly explained in the entire scheme of things. Yes, we followed it. Barely. No, that doesn't mean it's well written. It's not. As for our men in blue, or seventies retro designer duds in this case, we present police detective Alex Tardio (William Fichtner) who prances around like a male fashion model. Tardio must be seen to be believed. We saw him. We didn't believe him. Again and again, as our audience went bananas watching this visually effeminate cop steal every scene he is in.

Yeah, we laughed, too, but everywhere but here. Tardio's overkill just nailed home the fact that this crappy script needed heavy duty distraction to keep everyone laughing. For that, you can't do better than Lawrence and DeVito and Fichtner's wardrobe.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to What's the Worst That Could Happen, he would have paid . . .


dateflick level. We walked into the theater expecting a disaster. We walked out confused as hell as to why we laughed as much as we did. Welcome to summertime movies, where nothing has to make a helluva lot of sense to be worth the popcorn. On that level, What's The Worst That Could Happen? is definitely worth the extra large combo

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