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The 'Worst' Has Happened

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 1, 2001


    'What's the Worst That Could Happen?' Danny DeVito and Martin Lawrence are just asking for it in "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" (Sam Emerson/MGM)
In "What's the Worst That Could Happen?," the filmmakers respond to their title's provocative question with the following answer: this movie.

Kevin Caffery (Martin Lawrence) is an art thief who's burglarizing a Marblehead, Mass., home, when the owner, sleazy rich guy Max Fairbanks (Danny DeVito), catches him at gunpoint. As the police are about to haul him away, Max does something for pure spite. He takes off Kevin's new ring, claiming it's his. Kevin, who just got that ring from the new love (Carmen Ejogo) in his life, is determined to get it back. And that's pretty much the story in this dull, plodding comedy, based on a Donald E. Westlake novel.

The casting of Lawrence and DeVito as jugular-hungry opponents could have yielded some funny, punchy entertainment. Both are feisty comedians who thrive on aggressively verbal comedy. They could have tongue-fought and eye-warred their way through an amusing comedy. But "Worst" is so suffocated by its own plot, no one's got time to do more than follow the program.

Unfortunately, in Hollywood, casting is considered more than enough to make a movie. The gags? They can be anything, so long as these two play themselves, right? Wrong. Lawrence, who reaped millions on this date last summer with "Big Momma's House," is no Martin Lawrence this time. His routines are flaccid retreads of his usual stuff. And DeVito, winner of the Mr. Ubiquitous Award lately, also phones himself in.

There is one small spark of humor in "Worst." And it flashes so brightly, you find yourself wishing someone had junked Lawrence and DeVito, then rebuilt the whole movie around this character. That's Detective Alex Tardio, played with prim, hilarious precision by William Fichtner. A dandy of an officer, who suggests a comic combination of Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe and David Bowie, he blows the two stars away with his wide brimmed hats, impeccable white suits and the team of white pooches he loves to walk. Ace Ventura, eat your heart out. But we digress. Talking about the best that happens is such a minor part of the big picture.

"What's the Worst That Could Happen?" (PG-13, 95 minutes) – Contains foul language and sexual situations.


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