Funny Men, Unfunny Film

Friday, September 9, 2005

In "The Man," Eugene Levy is Andy Fidler, a dental appliance salesman who gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a hackneyed "madcap" mismatching, he finds himself an involuntary partner with ATF agent Derrick Vann (Samuel L. Jackson), who's investigating an illegal arms dealer.

Levy's a wonderful comedian. Surely this guy, the one who stole every scene in "American Pie," the hapless Gerry Fleck who shuffled hilariously through "Best in Show" with, literally, two left feet, can make something happen. Except for a briefly amusing scene, in which Andy pretends to be a cool operator who likes to throw around the word for a female pup, the script never allows him to be more than a third-rate version of his funnier self. A wide-eyed expression here, a goofy utterance there are not enough to redeem this comedy.

Jackson, whose best performance remains the Old Testament-thumping Jules Winnfield of "Pulp Fiction," fares even worse. The scowling and verbal snapping that have long become his trademark, feel even more tiresome than usual in the confines of this film.

There have been better tough-guy-and-goofball partnerships in movies, including the classic one between Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in "48 Hrs." or Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in "Midnight Run." Unfortunately, "The Man" makes the mistake of assuming casting is all it takes to make a good comedy.

-- Desson Thomson

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