What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Jun 6, 2001 at 12:00 am

What’s the worst that could happen when two crooks such as cat burglar Kevin Cafferty (Martin Lawrence, Big Momma’s House) and bankrupt corporate raider Max Fairbanks (Danny DeVito, Drowning Mona) get into a pissing match centering on a tacky ring? A nutty assortment of zany thieves, scorned women, and crooked movers and shakers winds up dumped out into a romantic comedy plot; too bad it has more absurd characters bumbling through silly capers than it has laughs.

While casing an upscale Boston art auction for future “business,” smooth criminal Cafferty meets lovely, caramel Brit Amber Belhaven (Carmen Ejogo, TV’s “Sally Hemmings: An American Scandal”) tearfully departing with one of her dead father’s paintings in order to pay her hotel bill. Never one to pass up an attractive opportunity, Cafferty comes to Amber’s rescue, stealing the painting and her heart, and losing his in the bargain.

Both believe that fate has brought them together. Hours after they’ve just met, lying in Caffery’s arms, Amber slips her father’s lucky ring onto his finger as a token of their true love.

But they can’t live on love. Cafferty and his partner, Berger (John Leguizamo, Summer of Sam), go to work burglarizing stately Marblehead, Max Fairbanks’ North Shore summer house seized in his bankruptcy proceedings. It’s a good plan: Fairbanks has been ordered to vacate so the joint should be easy pickings. But Fairbanks has as much respect for the law as Cafferty. While the two thieves break in, he’s having a bubble-bath party with Playhouse’s Miss September, Tracey Kimberly (Sascha Knopf). Cafferty ends up forfeiting his ring at the business end of Fairbanks’ gun and, as Bugs Bunny said to Elmer Fudd, “Of course, you know, this means war.”

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? is a zany war, but it’s not a laugh riot. The premise of the robbed robber is slim pickings for a feature-length comedy and Cafferty and Fairbanks’ testosterone-fueled antics are mostly silly, not humorous. Writer Matthew Chapman seems to have confused the words “quirky” and “comedy.” What’s the Worst is populated with oddballs, from rhymin’ and rappin’ computer hacker Shelly Nix to Fairbanks’ personal assistant-fortuneteller-part-time-lover Gloria (Glenne Headley, Breakfast of Champions), from his bumbling, closeted gay security chief Earl Radburn (Larry Miller, Best in Show) to the flamboyantly gay detective Alex Tardio (William Fichtner, Drowning Mona).

The actors mostly do their best with Chapman’s mechanical dialogue, but ultimately just serve as wind-up toys knocking noggins for laughs they rarely get. Adding prankish and stereotypical Middle-Eastern and German imitations by Leguizamo doesn’t make things any better. Paying to see this empty-headed flick may not be the worst thing to happen to you in the multiplex this summer — but it might come close.

Visit the official What's The Worst That Could Happen? Web site at mgm.com/whatstheworst.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].