What's the worst that could happen, you say? Well, for starters, getting locked in a theater showing this movie on a continuous, 24-hour loop. Seeing it once is bad enough. Sam Weisman's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" is a comic dead-zone trying to pass itself off as a boisterous crime caper. As such, it is just about as dull as one could possibly fear, and the overflowing screenplay by Matthew Chapman is no help to the bright performers who understandably flounder here.
Kevin Caffery (Martin Lawrence) is a professional thief at the top of his game. While out on a heist one night with his partner (John Leguizamo), he makes the mistake of paying a visit to millionaire Max Fairbanks' (Danny DeVito) mansion. In a spontaneous attempt to beat him at his own game, Max steals Kevin's prized ring that his girlfriend, Amber (Carmen Ejogo), just gave him--right in front of the cops who have come to arrest Kevin. For Kevin, this means war, as he sets out to take back the ring that is rightfully his, and turn Max's gradually crumbling life upside down.
For such a nonsensical, forgettable little movie, the talent roster is surprisingly filled to the brim, and all of the actors more or less embarrass themselves. Martin Lawrence, who was a comic revelation in 2000's "Big Momma's House" is back in the type of role he always plays--a jewel thief. Lawrence can be so good that it amazes me to keep seeing him playing the same character over and over. As Kevin Caffery, he performs his usual shtick, and wins very few laughs in the process. Danny DeVito (1998's "Living Out Loud"), likewise, fits comfortably, but unspectacularly, in a role that he has played before, and is sure to play again. DeVito's Max Fairbanks is a nasty man with no true redeeming qualities, and so he neither captivates nor amuses us. One comedic scene--the only one--that does work has DeVito spitting off a rapid-fire stream of four-letter-words, only for it to be translated, verbatim, by a sign language interpreter.
The supporting cast list is quite impressive, which makes their appearances all the more unfortunate. Carmen Ejogo shows promise as Kevin's understanding girlfriend Amber, while William Fichtner (1999's "Go") has some fun as a police detective who is about as flaming as a neon sign. And SNL cast member Ana Gasteyer (2000's "What Women Want") manages to be fetching in only a handful of scenes, as John Leguizamo's wife. Meanwhile, Nora Dunn (1999's "Three Kings"), as Max's wife, Glenne Headly (1996's "2 Days in the Valley"), as his astrology-obsessed assistant, and Richard Schiff (2000's "Lucky Numbers"), as his long-suffering lawyer, are painfully wasted. How painful it is to watch good actors without a sign of worthwhile material to work off of.
In a week that has featured two comedy misfires, "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" pales even in comparison to the Rob Schneider flick, "The Animal," which was no great shake, either. And there's even less to say about this movie. Based on the novel by Donald Westlake (who also penned the smart "The Grifters"), "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" is the worst kind of poorly made film, because it is so very plain and mediocre it doesn't even inspire palpable hatred--the one fun thing about negative reviews. What I'm left with, then, is 94 minutes of wasted time and a dreary write-up that can't possibly do anything other than mirror how dreary the picture itself is.
©2001 by Dustin Putman