Suit up for action!
Jackie Chan is to martial arts what Burger King is to a steak sandwich. I haven't a clue what that means, I've just always wanted to use the words "Jackie Chan" and "steak sandwich" in the same sentence. Speaking of Chan, he's at it again in one of those high-budget action flicks, co-starring with an American actor (or in this case, actress) to balance out his jagged English vocabulary. This time around Chan's running, jumping, and drop kicking it with Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer) in the DreamWorks action comedy The Tuxedo. Featuring more stunts than you can shake a cufflink at, The Tuxedo makes its grand entrance on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Once again Jackie Chan plays a variation on Jackie Chan, a poor schlep who accidentally gets mistaken for a secret agent and is forced to save the world's drinking supply. Chan plays Jimmy Tong, a cab driver turned limo driver for multimillion dollar super spy Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs, Windtalkers). Devlin is a smooth-talking, cool walking socialite with a secret: he wears a technologically advanced tuxedo that sports every bell and whistle under the sun. The tux is able to perform superhuman feats like becoming an anti-gravity suit, endowing the wearer with super fast reflexes, or becoming a lean, mean fighting machine. It can also make the wearer boogie down, Michael Jackson style. After Jimmy and Mr. Devlin are nearly killed in a car bomb, Devlin is knocked out of commission, leaving Jimmy some big (and high tech) shoes to fill! Taking advantage of the amazing tux, Jimmy quickly gets sucked into cracking a crime case wherein a slimy villain named Banning (Ritchie Coster) has plans to release a deadly dehydrating type of water into North America. This will be done using a bacteria from a bug called a water strider, which will then produce…oh, but what's it matter? We're all here to see one of two things: Jackie Chan kicking some butt, and Jennifer Love Hewitt (as Chan's partner against crime) looking good in a low cut dress.
Everything else is inconsequential, don't you think?
Jackie Chan is the most likable actor to ever grace the silver screen. I'm not taking this statement lightly—after pondering the many stars of Hollywood of past and present, I cannot think of another person who personifies geniality, goofiness, and good natured fun as much as Mr. Chan. While many, many actors have made far better films, Chan still gets the gold for being the one star who I'd most like to be stuck in a taxi cab with. The guy just oozes nice. He is an everyman trapped (and happily so) in a body that can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He's the Superman of action heroes, since it's well documented that he does most of his own stunts. From his initial burst on the American scene in Rumble in the Bronx to his more Hollywood-ized hits like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon (and their respective sequels), Chan is a man of action that we love to watch.
So it's with some disappointment that I give DreamWorks's The Tuxedo an only mediocre review. The film's single flaw is that it doesn't utilize Chan's unique fighting abilities very well. Chan's chop-pow-crack moves are like watching one of the most graceful of ballerinas traversing the floor—he leaps, he twists, he makes noses bleed. In The Tuxedo, there are a lot of scenes featuring Chan floating through the air, sliding down giant water towers and the like, but they all reek of computer generated effects. Yes, there are those rare moments when Chan obviously performed his own stunts, but they feel few and far between. It seems rather pointless to stick Jackie Chan in a movie filled with CGI when Chan, in effect, is himself a special effect.
As for the rest of the movie revolving around Chan, it's all pretty hokey stuff. Chan dons a super tuxedo and is able to do some of the most impressive moves this side of James Bond. The plot has something to do with a water supply infected by an insect bacteria that causes mass, deadly dehydrations—or something like that. I dunno, does anyone really go to see a Jackie Chan movie for the story intricacies? I wasn't paying much attention to the story as I was waiting for Chan to show up and knock around a few heads.
The cast is made up of action stock characters that we've grown to love or hate, depending on your mood. The bad guy (Coster) is your typical accented smoothie, snarling his lines with such smugness that you wonder what his parents were like ("Honey, if I've told you once I've told you a thousand times: don't encourage him to attempt world domination!"). Jennifer Love Hewitt, semi-fresh of a rebound from her failed TV spin-off, is so unbelievably cute that I began wondering if her folks were possibly descendants of the Care Bears. Throughout the course of the movie we're treated to multiple jokes involving Hewitt's plunging cleavage (impressive, to say the least) and her shapely bottom (ditto). I wonder if she read the script and noticed that her character was basically a one-note boob joke? Lightening up the proceedings is Peter Stormare (Fargo) as a sniveling scientist who tosses off some of the film's best lines.
I can't say that I hated The Tuxedo, since I did get the giggles during a few scenes (Chan attempting to work his new threads, Chan knocking out the legendary James Brown, et cetera). Although it's far from his best work, The Tuxedo has a few (minor) things going for it. Let's just hope that the people who make Chan's next movie realize that fans want to see Chan in action, not superimposed through a computer.
The Tuxedo is presented in a very attractive looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Once again DreamWorks has done a fine job at making sure this transfer is clear of any major imperfections. The colors and black levels were both solid and dark without any bleeding in the image. Aside of the slightest amount of edge enhancement in a few key scenes, I found this picture to be both crystal clear and pleasing to the eye. The film is also available in a separate pan and scan version, though it's not recommended.
The soundtrack is presented in three options: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English and French), DTS 5.1 Surround (English), and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English). Both the DTS and Dolby 5.1 mix were full of directional effects and surround sounds throughout the entire length of the film. While some may prefer the DTS track, I personally found both of these mixes to be bombastic and full. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Extra! Extras! Extras! DreamWorks has given The Tuxedo a few supplements to whet your Chan palate. Here's a rundown of what's on this disc:
HBO Special: "The Tuxedo: Tailor Made for Jackie Chan": This fluffy promo piece includes all the stuff we've come to expect from these featurettes: interviews with the cast and crew (actors Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Jason Isaacs, director Kevin Donovan, et cetera) and lots of clips from the film. This piece seems to stretch on endlessly as the cast fills us in on what the story is about (we got it already—we saw the movie!). Overall this is inconsequential filler and for die hard fans only.
Deleted and Extended Scenes / Blooper Reel: Nine deleted scenes, three extended scenes, and some bloopers are included under this section. All of these are happily presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The deleted scenes and extended scenes are more exposition on the plot and characters (we want more Jackie Chan busting heads!) and the blooper reel includes your typical flubbing of lines and the actors laughing hysterically at their flaws.
Finally there is a theatrical trailer for the film, some information on the cast and crew, and a few scant production notes.
Jackie Chan has done much better work in previous films. While The Tuxedo isn't the worst title in his canon, I recommend Jackie Chan's First Strike or the original Rush Hour before checking out this flick.
The Tuxedo is found guilty of shoving Chan's expertise in fighting to the side. Sentenced to twenty hours community service at a local karate school for kindergartners!
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Scales of Justice
• HBO Making-Of Featurette
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