Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Held Up

By Bryan Poyser

MAY 22, 2000: 

D: Steve Rash; with Jamie Foxx, Nia Long, Barry Corbin, Jake Busey. (PG-13, 91 min.)

The talented people in front of the camera fail to bring anything original, interesting, or even funny to this tedious would-be comedy. Jamie Foxx, who was always at least entertaining on such TV shows as In Living Color and in the movies Booty Call and The Truth About Cats & Dogs, is unable to rise above the painfully unfunny script and deliver more than a chuckle with his smart-ass asides. Likewise, Barry Corbin and John Cullum (TV's Northern Exposure)elicit pity instead of laughter with this movie's amateurishly drawn characters. Both this film and the TV series mine the premise of a city-boy outsider butting heads with the quirky denizens of a town in the middle of nowhere. Northern Exposure brought depth, humor, and meaning out of the conflict whereas Held Up, well ... doesn't. The story, if you care to know, begins with Mike Dawson (Foxx) and his girlfriend, Rachel (Long) driving through the Arizona desert in a vintage 1957 Studebaker on their vacation. Rachel discovers that Mike blew their savings on the car and tried to hide the fact from her. In an awkwardly staged breakup outside of the Sip & Zip convenience store in God Knows Where, Arizona, Rachel hitches a ride to the airport to get back home, leaving Mike in the proverbial dust. From there, things go from bad to worse for Mike as he is "held up" on his way to the airport by the local yokels and their crazy antics. First his car is stolen (criminy!) then the crotchety convenience store clerk (Cullum) won't change his $50 to make a phone call (cripes!), then three banditos-in-training hold up the store (get me off this crazy train!). A cornball hostage situation ensues as the sheriff (Corbin) and his blithering-idiot deputies botch one rescue tactic after another and the townsfolk bring out their lawn chairs to watch the goings-on. Mike is forced to take control of the situation himself as neither his kidnappers nor his would-be rescuers have a clue between them. All of the characters in this piffle of a movie are bona fide "characters," wacky as they come, but we get to learn about the soft, gooey sentimental hearts they have underneath their zany exteriors by the film's end. And that's the major problem with the film: Besides the fact that it's not funny, it has no teeth. It's nowhere near clever enough to be a satire and not broad enough to be a farce. The farthest the film goes out on the comedy edge is at the beginning when Mike pulls into the podunk town so that his girlfriend can go poo. We get to see sexy Nia Long mince her way into the bathroom, a hand squeezing her butt-cheeks together, while she makes little pooting sounds. Now that's comedy. In fact, that's the only scene that maybe, maybe, would have kept this script, minus about 60 pages, from being a fine episode of Foxx's own series on the WB, The Jamie Foxx Show. That way the cast and crew and the audience could have expected so much less.

.5 Star


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