" Aw come on, it’s just a bug "
— Casper Van Dien, Starship Troopers

MRQE Top Critic

Muscle Shoals

Even if the Muscle Shoals sound isn't on your iPod, you'll like seeing where it came from —Marty Mapes (review...)

Etta sings in Muscle Shoals

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Before I knew much about Chris Tucker, I found his schtick (high-pitched, super-fast trash talking) annoying. His sense of self-deprecation has allowed him to grow on me, and he is now one of my favorite comics.

Jackie Chan’s schtick is, and always has been, amazing. His graceful and daring stunts always entertain.

Combining the two seems more like a cheap Hollywood gimmick than a stroke of inspiration. But whatever the motive, the outcome works. The two look like they had a great time with each other, and that genuine energy makes this otherwise-formula movie into something worth remembering.

Tucker is James Carter, an LAPD cop. He’s not very good, but his ego doesn’t know that. Carter ruins an undercover operation, blowing up the evidence in the process. True to Tucker’s schtick, Carter can’t even acknowledge the mistake. He has a million excuses and they are unleashed fast and furious. He’s a nuisance to his boss and a laughing stock to his colleagues, yet he remains egotistic and cocky.

Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating an international kidnaping in L.A. Their Chinese counterparts insist on sending their own agent Lee (Chan) to help with the investigation. The FBI sees Lee as more of a hindrance than a help, so they ask the police for someone to keep Lee busy. The LAPD is all too happy to get Carter out of their hair for a while.

Turns out Carter isn’t too pleased about the babysitting job, and neither is Lee. The two team up to solve the crime themselves, with or without the support of the FBI or the LAPD.

The movie, thankfully, makes no pretense about why the audience is in the theater. It’s not because of the plot or the conflict, it is only because of Chan and Tucker, and the filmmakers know it. The movie doesn’t put us through any more plot than is necessary, and it gives us plenty of Chan’s amazing stunts.

Most of Chan’s so-called “American” movies of late (Mr. Nice Guy, Supercop, Rumble in the Bronx) were actually made a few years ago in Hong Kong, so if Chan seems to have aged a lot since his “last” movie, he has.

That doesn’t mean he’s lost his touch.

One of Chan’s more amazing moves comes early in the film as he hops between vehicles in slow-moving traffic. The stunts don’t look as physically challenging as some of his earlier ones, but they highlight the grace with which Chan can still move.

Tucker is funnier than ever. As I said, his sense of self-deprecation makes his annoying persona palatable, even tasty at times. His strutting ego won’t hesitate to broadcast a victory or explain away a defeat. But his strutting is always an order of magnitude bigger than the actual accomplishment. You can’t help but laugh both at Tucker and at all the other loudmouth braggarts in your life.

The two aren’t a natural duo, but they do have some good scenes together. While waiting at a stakeout, they teach each other their best moves (to the tune of “War”). And in the tradition of Jackie Chan movies, there are outtakes at the end that show just how much fun Tucker and Chan had together.

And that’s why this movie is worth seeing. Don’t kid yourself. You’re not going for the plot or the suspense. You’re going because Jackie Chan kicks ass and because Chris Tucker is hilarious, and because the combination is sure to be entertaining.

You won’t be disappointed.