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by Willie Waffle

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The Man

Granted, it's easy for me to feel sorry for myself after being subjected to The Man starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. Being required to review a film you know will be bad is like being tied to the train tracks and hearing the whistle getting closer and closer. However, I am not the critic who felt the most pain that evening.

After a very awkward and obvious product placement for USA Today, every single critic in the screening decided to have a little fun with our pal Mike Clarke, lead critic for USA Today, who happened to be there with us. The poor guy was the subject of intense ribbing, jocularity and all around poking of fun, even though we all know the marketing department is guilty of such "genius" product placement. We really rubbed it in. I'm glad he can take a joke because it was the only funny one any of us heard all night long.

Jackson stars as ATF agent Derrick Vann - a streetwise, Detroit-based, tough as nails, take no BS cop who doesn't trust anyone. A mastermind criminal has stolen a large amount of guns and other firepower from the ATF, and Vann's partner was killed in the process because he was probably in on it. Now, Vann has Internal Affairs breathing down his neck and accusing him of being an accessory, so he sets out to catch the thieves and retrieve the guns to clear his name. Vann establishes a sting operation to catch the thieves, but something goes awry.

Andy Fidler (Levy) - a mild mannered, Midwestern dental supply salesman in town for a conference is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Accidentally, he ends up exactly where Vann has set up the sting, so the gun thieves think Andy is some sort of international criminal ready to buy the guns.  You know what that means.  Vann and Andy are forced to partner up to catch the thieves (oh how the hilarity will ensue).

Will Vann get his man? Is Andy able to carry out the plan without blowing it? Is Vann guilty?

Let's make sure we keep the characters straight. Jackson plays the tough guy, streetwise cop. Levy plays the fish out of water, naïve Midwesterner. Waffle plays the bored out his mind critic who doesn't laugh at the jokes and keeps looking at his watch while praying for mercy. Gee, we've NEVER seen a movie where two opposite characters who mix like oil and water have to resolve their differences, find some common ground, learn to respect each other and overcome an obstacle! Worst of all, this movie was so bad, I woke up the next morning with a horrible cold, and I blame The Man. The germs must have jumped off the screen and into my body as I sat mouth agape at how dreadful this movie is.

Frankly, it's hard to pick the movie's worst moments, since it is full of so many. Is it the long, unfunny, obnoxious scene where we learn meat causes gastrointestinal distress for Andy, and have to listen to it for longer than anyone over the age of 8-years old will find funny? Is it the lack of chemistry between Levy and Jackson that leaves Jackson forcefully barking his lines at the coasting-along-and-collecting-a- paycheck Levy? Is it the constant reliance on clichés that were much funnier in other movies because those moments had better dialogue and acting? Sure, it's all of it.

While Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman and Steve Carpenter all worked on the script, it appears none of them could come up with an original idea. They are content to rely on scenes, twists and characters all done better in other movies like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Bringing Down The House and more (I think the classically bad teaming of Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro in Showtime was even better than this). However, Piddock, Oberman and Carpenter aren't content to let a little potty humor be the only offensive part of the movie. No, they must have Vann threaten a street thug by telling him, "I'll beat you like a runaway slave." That line rubbed me the wrong way as one of the most inappropriate and ridiculous lines of dialogue I have seen in 2005.

Jackson does what he can by bringing an edge and toughness to Vann, but the role isn't much of a challenge. He snarls in the right moments, yells at Levy with as much believability as he can muster and projects as much attitude as any one man ever could in a movie (chewing the scenery along the way). Of course, Levy is in the same boat trying to play the squarest, most uncool man on the planet. He gets properly flustered in the right scenes and tries to extract some laughs out of us as he ends up in situations that get worse and worse as the movie goes on, but the material isn't there for him or Jackson.

The Man was a bad idea, badly executed.

0 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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