Ah, January: the twinge of cold in the air, football playoffs, snow days for the kids, and hands down the worst month of the year for movies. The annual dumping ground for all studios, January is traditionally a month of low returns and how-is-that-movie-number-one weekends. Fitting right in is Code Name: The Cleaner, a movie that manages to be unfunny and uninteresting in simultaneous fashion. Whether that feat takes talent is purely in the eye of the beholder.
Cedric the Entertainer is Jake Rodgers, a man who finds himself with a bad case of amnesia after waking up next to a dead FBI agent in a hotel room as the film opens. As he pieces his life back together he encounters a devious blonde (the ever-plasticized Nicollette Sheridan), a shady waitress (a stone cold Lucy Liu), and a host of baddies after whatever Jake has. What does he have? Oh heck, I won’t give it away since there actually will be people who pay to see this. I’ll just say Jake becomes entwined in a government conspiracy that almost acts as if it wants to be taken semi-seriously.
The director is Les Mayfield, who has made a handful of virtually unwatchable “comedies,” most recently 2005’s The Man. Stupid comedy can be done right, but Mayfield always aims for the obvious and never knows when to quit. Cedric does his pseudo-karate shtick no less than six times, and it isn’t even funny the first time. Mayfield must be a tremendous Cedric fan since he lets him improvise the film away, never hitting any kind of stride or rhythm. As any fan of true comedy knows, that’s what it’s all about.
In his defense, Cedric is trying. Even some of his physical bits come close to working (the idea of Cedric heading an elite SWAT unit is funny in kind of a sad way). Oddly enough, the hardest I laughed was when an unnamed extra slips on a waxed floor and skids through a plate-glass window. Absurd humor – there’s a start for Mayfield and company. Nicollette Sheridan and Lucy Liu do all that they’re asked, which is to pose for the camera and let their stunt doubles take it from there.
Code Name: The Cleaner is for Cedric enthusiasts only, and even they may feel bamboozled by the lack of edginess and the drilling of every joke deep into the Earth’s crust. It’s not often that a 90 minute film could lose twenty minutes and still end up with an identical result, but Code Name: The Cleaner does pull that off. If only someone had made Mayfield aware of that somewhere along the line.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 91 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor and some violence.
Theatrical Release: January 5, 2007
Directed by: Les Mayfield
Written by: Robert Adetuyi & George Gallo.
Cast: Cedric the Entertainer, Lucy Liu, Nicollette Sheridan, Mark Dacascos, Callum Keith Rennie, Niecy Nash