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January 2007


by Kam Williams


Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Les Mayfield
Screenwriter: George Gallo
Cast: Lucy Liu, Elizabeth Hurley, Cedric The Entertainer, DeRay Davis, Nicollette Sheridan

Rated PG-13 for sensuality, crude humor, and violence.
Running time: 91 minutes



Cedric as Janitor-Turned-Sleuth in Shallow Sketch Flick

Hollywood certainly didn’t waste anytime in turning out its first insulting
blaxploitation flick of 2007. Cedric the Entertainer stars as Jake Rodgers, a janitor for a video game manufacturer who ends up unconscious in a hotel room with a dead FBI Agent and a briefcase containing $250,000 after being hit over head by a mysterious assailant.
The plot thickens right off the bat when Jake awakens with amnesia which leaves him very open to the suggestions of a couple of scheming women with diametrically-opposed intentions. First, Diane (Nicollette Sheridan) convinces him that they’re married and whisks him away to a sprawling mansion equipped with a butler (Robert Clarke) ready to wait on him hand and foot. In truth, she’s in cahoots with a gang of crooks who are after an altered computer chip that they think Jake has in his possession. Later, a triangle of sorts evolves when a waitress named Gina (Lucy Liu) shows up claiming to be his mistress. Truth be told, she’s actually an undercover agent trying who also out to find the aforementioned chip before it can be used for evil purposes.

This promising premise, which was lifted from both The Bourne Identity (2002) and Memento (2000), probably makes Code Name: The Cleaner sound, on paper, a lot better than the lousy fish-out-of-water comedy served up on the screen. Unfortunately, the movie is one of those pump-and-dump productions which puts all the best jokes in the trailers, hoping to milk the most it can opening weekend before word of mouth spreads.

So, if you’ve caught the commercial where Cedric explains his wearing clogs and lederhosen with “Haven’t you heard of Dutch chocolate?” before yodeling “Ricola!” then you’re already familiar with the film’s funniest scene. Less amusing is the endlessly demeaning dialogue coming out of the mouths of black characters.

For instance, when Jake is offered a job as an FBI Agent, he declines, opting to remain a janitor because ”Somebody needs to keep this place clean. That’s what I do.” Yet, he is simultaneously shown to have a serious character flaw because in the end he still steals the quarter-million dollars he found. Fellow custodian Ronnie (DeRay Davis) constantly raps about the virtue of attending to toilets. And an African-American harridan named Jacuzzi (Niecy Nash) is heard complaining “a sister’s not happy if her hair’s nappy,” implying that having straight hair is imperative to feel good about yourself. This point is only emphasized by the fact that she’s not a love interest, but merely an annoying loudmouth who gets locked in a trunk and forgotten.

Meanwhile, Cedric goes gaga over the seductive blonde, screaming euphorically “I’m rich and married to a white woman!” too aroused to figure out that he’s being played by her. Plus, he’s lusting after Gina, an attractive Asian, just as much. What message is a movie trying to send out when its black leading man is a bumbling buffoon who dismisses sisters out of hand and can’t control himself around females of other colors, and when the rest of the black characters behave crudely and as if they hate themselves?

Code Name: The Minstrel Coon Show!
Poor (0 stars)