Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rush Job

A sad fact about popular series is that oftentimes characters get locked into place, and then their essense gets distilled, until all that's left of them is little more than a single concept. Witness Radar O'Reilly in M*A*S*H. In the movie (and even in the first few years of the TV show), Radar was a leering, lecherous, sneaky little cur, who, among other things, had very acute hearing, which allowed him to hear the choppers seconds before everyone else. He was also a virgin, and completely socially inept with women. By about season three, most of that depth had been stripped away from the character, leaving only his virginity and his prescience, effectively making him younger as the years went on, ending up with a sort of psychic idiot savant with a teddy bear at the end of his time on the show.

And here's the thing: M*A*S*H was a pretty well-written show. It just had the misfortune to be set in a time and place that was relatively short-lived. I forget the exact amount, but I believe that this show about the Korean War actually ran longer than the war for about a decade. The characters just got stuck.

Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with Rush Hour 3? Well, imagine the same amount of character distillation that happened to Radar, Hot Lips, Hawkeye, et al., applied to Detective Jack Carter (Chris Tucker) and Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan), and turned up to eleven.
Rush Hour 3 is rated PG-13, which is too bad, because most of the action and humor is perfect for the nine-to-eleven-year-old set. I should know, because there was one on each side of me. They loved it. Looooved it.

And, I'm embarrassed to admit, I enjoyed it. And I'm uncomfortable about that. Not because of the characters, which, as you may have surmised, have become, almost impossibly, even more one-dimensional than they were even in the original Rush Hour.

And not because whenever there was a choice between doing a 'set piece' or advancing the plot, the set piece was chosen (by set piece, I mean some bit of action or dialogue or interplay between the main characters that is derivative of something they've said or done before), which in all honesty was usually the right decision, because the plot of this thing is so bad it doesn't even bear mentioning. It was so bad, that barely halfway through the flick, my 9-year-old daughter leaned over and confidently predicted the good-guy double-cross shocker revelation that she knew would appear sometime in the next half-hour. I sincerely hope that Max Von Sydow enjoys his new vacation villa, or whatever else it was that he was able to get for appearing in this thing.

No, the reason I'm embarrassed over my enjoyment is because the film is just this side of being unforgiveably racist and jingoistic. An asian man is berated because he speaks French. A French cab driver is berated because he doesn't like Americans, and is forced by an American (Tucker) at gunpoint to sing the National Anthem. Yet, a few minutes later, he's driving them around again, and begging to become an American, so that he can get the chance to kill someone.

The only thing that keeps this from being completely offensive is the overall level of maturity of the film, which I would classify as freshmanic--to call it sophomoric would be to give it too much credit. You can't get any madder at these clowns for their offensiveness than you can get mad at Will Ferrell's daughter for her landlord role. Especially since much of the stuff that Jackie Chan says is just fed to him by someone off camera, and he's not even sure what it means.

Bottom line: lots of fun and funny action from two characters who will do pretty much exactly what you saw them do in the two previous movies, and not a damned thing more, with too much ignorance-based humor to wholeheartedly reccommend for even a mindless popcorn flick.

Wait 'til cable.



Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Dude, keep in mind, your kids are much sharper than the average adult. Which would explain why movies like this keep getting made???

10:48 AM  
Blogger Nölff said...

I didn't know there was another Rush Hour. I'm out of touch.

Good review though

4:51 PM  
Blogger cadbury_vw said...

your writing is brilliant - and probably better than the show

i really enjoy your commentary/reviews/celery of humanity

11:25 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

that's what i figured. i think we'll go see bourne this weekend

i'm pushing for becoming jane, but i know that will never happen

2:58 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I'm with Cad--love your reviews. I read the BBC movie reviews just for laughs. The best ones are always for the worst movies.

2:30 AM  
Blogger mal said...

Thanks for the heads up. This movie was not at the top of the list of movies I wanted to see any way.

We did go see Hairspray over the weekend. Hilarious *G*

6:51 AM  
Blogger GC said...

great review and many thanks. Overall I'm hearing that this movie was just plain enjoyable.

3:42 PM  

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