What's the worst that could happen, you say? Well, for starters, getting
locked in a theater showing this movie on a continuous, 24-hour loop. Seeing
it once is bad enough. Sam Weisman's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" is
a comic dead-zone trying to pass itself off as a boisterous crime caper. As
such, it is just about as dull as one could possibly fear, and the
overflowing screenplay by Matthew Chapman is no help to the bright performers
who understandably flounder here.
Kevin Caffery (Martin Lawrence) is a professional thief at the top of his
game. While out on a heist one night with his partner (John Leguizamo), he
makes the mistake of paying a visit to millionaire Max Fairbanks' (Danny
DeVito) mansion. In a spontaneous attempt to beat him at his own game, Max
steals Kevin's prized ring that his girlfriend, Amber (Carmen Ejogo), just
gave him--right in front of the cops who have come to arrest Kevin. For
Kevin, this means war, as he sets out to take back the ring that is
rightfully his, and turn Max's gradually crumbling life upside down.
For such a nonsensical, forgettable little movie, the talent roster is
surprisingly filled to the brim, and all of the actors more or less embarrass
themselves. Martin Lawrence, who was a comic revelation in 2000's "Big
Momma's House" is back in the type of role he always plays--a jewel thief.
Lawrence can be so good that it amazes me to keep seeing him playing the same
character over and over. As Kevin Caffery, he performs his usual shtick, and
wins very few laughs in the process. Danny DeVito (1998's "Living Out Loud"),
likewise, fits comfortably, but unspectacularly, in a role that he has played
before, and is sure to play again. DeVito's Max Fairbanks is a nasty man with
no true redeeming qualities, and so he neither captivates nor amuses us. One
comedic scene--the only one--that does work has DeVito spitting off a
rapid-fire stream of four-letter-words, only for it to be translated,
verbatim, by a sign language interpreter.
The supporting cast list is quite impressive, which makes their appearances
all the more unfortunate. Carmen Ejogo shows promise as Kevin's understanding
girlfriend Amber, while William Fichtner (1999's "Go") has some fun as a
police detective who is about as flaming as a neon sign. And SNL cast member
Ana Gasteyer (2000's "What Women Want") manages to be fetching in only a
handful of scenes, as John Leguizamo's wife. Meanwhile, Nora Dunn (1999's
"Three Kings"), as Max's wife, Glenne Headly (1996's "2 Days in the Valley"),
as his astrology-obsessed assistant, and Richard Schiff (2000's "Lucky
Numbers"), as his long-suffering lawyer, are painfully wasted. How painful it
is to watch good actors without a sign of worthwhile material to work off of.
In a week that has featured two comedy misfires, "What's the Worst That Could
Happen?" pales even in comparison to the Rob Schneider flick, "The Animal,"
which was no great shake, either. And there's even less to say about this
movie. Based on the novel by Donald Westlake (who also penned the smart "The
Grifters"), "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" is the worst kind of poorly
made film, because it is so very plain and mediocre it doesn't even inspire
palpable hatred--the one fun thing about negative reviews. What I'm left
with, then, is 94 minutes of wasted time and a dreary write-up that can't
possibly do anything other than mirror how dreary the picture itself is.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman