After years of stagnant lobbying attempts, after decades of futility, finally (Oh, what a day!) Hollywood has seen fit to cater to a demographic so long forgotten by the powers-that-be in the studio system: The terminally brain-dead. Coma patients: You can rest easy, because Hollywood does care about you and your plight; your bedsores and joint aches are going to hurt just a little less tonight. Oh lucky day. Lucky, lucky day! Had those nasty Florida judges just waited a few more months, Terri Schiavo would’ve lived long enough to see the day when New Line Cinema cared enough to make a movie designed for her “special needs,” i.e., the inability to show any feeling at all. Brain-dead patients all over this great land of ours will never have to worry about feeling left out while everyone else is laughing, because absolutely no one will enjoy The Man. That perpetual look of blank disbelief, snoring with your eyes wide open, the drool dripping from the side of your mouth, the powerlessness to express amusement: all characteristics that make total sense in the context of The Man.
I hope the rest of America doesn’t feel left out, because the people behind The Man had another demographic in mind as well: the terminally un-hip. You put a streetwise black cop in the same car as a whitebread dental supplies salesman, throw in some flatulence, and title the movie the absolute lamest thing you can think of (besides, You Go, Girl) and you’ve got box-office gold on the Carnival Cruise Line circuit. People in Duluth and Sheboygan are going to flock to this shit; The Man is going to sell out all across Lincoln, Nebraska, because somebody, somewhere, has to find it amusing when an uptight Caucasian dork works up enough Ebonic street lingo to sassmouth Jules Winnfield. Now that’s funny! So funny I forgot to … oh forget it.
Set in Detroit, Eugene Levy plays Andy Fidler, a dental-supply salesman from Wisconsin, who — in a case of absurd “Three’s Company”-esque mistaken identity — - is confused for a major gun buyer. Special Agent Derrick Vann (Sam Jackson) takes advantage of the mix-up and uses Fiddler to set up and, presumably, bust the whole gun-buying operation, but not before there is crazy, crazy tomfoolery:
Watch as a clueless middle-American schlep flosses his teeth during a car chase! Watch as a black man with cornrows and an earring perpetuates racial stereotypes! Watch as the buddy cop formula works overtime, as the white man shares his ideals about life with the black man, as the white man’s “you have to trust everyone” philosophies rub off on the black man! Watch as Eugene Levy actually white-ifies Sam Jackson! As the black man — under the influence of the white man — inexplicably attends his own daughter’s ballet ceremony, even though there are no drugs, skanks, or guns to be had! As the black man learns the white man’s moral values, and stands before him seconds before the credits roll to smile so, so very big and say, “Thanks, White Man!”
The Man is a goddamn disgrace. Director Les Mayfield, the quick wit behind Pauly Shore’s magnum opus Encino Man, actually manages to create a celluloid pallette on which not even the usuallyamusing Eugene Levy and Sam Jackson can excel. There is nothing redeeming about The Man — nothing, except that it provided a talentless director and a group of hack writers with yet another paycheck so that they may continue to foist their unwanted wares upon an American culture that — thankfully — is finally showing a weariness for theatrical stupidity. But they’re in luck this time: The brain dead hardly ever complain.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.The Man / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()