Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:34 - Released 6/1/01

What's The Worst That Could Happen? is one of those movies whose title dazzles film critics with opportunities for snide comments. What's the worst that could happen? The producers could give the green light to make this movie. What's the worst that could happen? Millions could be spent producing this film while people starve in underdeveloped countries. What's the worst that could happen? You could spend your hard-earned bucks to go see it. There is definitely fertile ground for sarcasm. This is one of those phoned-in movies that performers do to pay the rent between their real projects. Its stars, Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito, could not be more lackluster in their performances, although Lawrence continues to pour energy into his impersonations of other black comedians like Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. It would be interesting to see him devise a style of his own; so far it seems to be mainly made up of spirited emulations.

Directed by Sam Weisman, written by Matthew Chapman (based on the novel by Donald E. Westlake), What's The Worst involves a thief named Kevin (Lawrence) and a tycoon named Max (DeVito), who seem to be in some kind of contest to see who can make us like him the least. They cross paths when Max catches Kevin robbing his mansion and calls the police. Then, while the cops are apprehending the suspect, he steals Kevin's lucky ring, claiming that it belongs to him. So begins a war between the two. After Kevin escapes from custody, he re-robs the house, but since Max is now wearing the ring, he fails to recover the most important item on his list. The remainder of the film consists of Kevin trying to get the ring back and Max refusing to give it to him.

While this film features some of the least energetic work of its two stars, there are a few marginally notable performances by some supporting players. Both men have an entourage of friends, lovers, and business associates, most of whom counsel them to forget the ring and give up the conflict, such as Kevin's robbery partner, played by John Leguizamo, his girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo), and his mentor (Bernie Mac), and Max's astrological counselor (Glenne Headly), wife (Nora Dunn), and lawyer (Richard Schiff). While these actors do not do anything particularly important with their roles, most of them seem at least to be aware that there is a camera rolling. Another strangely out of place supporting actor is William Fichtner, playing a homosexual investigator (the script seems to be somewhat fixated upon gay jokes) who suspects both men of dirty pool. Fichtner's part feels eminently tacked on, as if the writers suddenly realized that the story couldn't end properly without a third party.

By far the funniest scene of this film is one which is intended as a minor diversion; it features Max getting a cell phone call from Kevin during a televised senate hearing, and launching into a tirade of profanity while the sign language interpreter (Stephanie Clayman) vigorously translates every word. The scene goes on a tad too long, but Clayman's performance easily outshines anyone else in the cast. On the whole, What's The Worst is a study in mediocrity, offering the least possible effort of almost everyone involved. What's the worst that could happen? It could be a box office success anyway. **

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail