Rush Hour 3 (New Line Cinema)
Could a responsible journalist review Rush Hour 3 without ever having seen Rush Hour 1 and 2? Could I join this trilogy in the fifth of its six hours and not be lost in the world, nay, the universe that is Rush Hour's Holy Trilogy? That is, without having absorbed all that is Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2, would I understand the words that were coming out of their mouths?
And if I did attend Monday's press screening at Edwards Grand Palace, would I be made by the throngs of rabid Rush Hour-ers that have been camped out front of America's Movie Palaces for weeks dressed as their favorite characters? Would I even try to fool the people that had helped make Rush Hour the cultural phenomenon that it is? These people whose passions sprouted up Rush Hour Conventions in San Diego, Chicago, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Dallas. These people whose devotion to the first two-thirds of the trilogy had led to the ubiquitous Rush Hour cartoon, breakfast cereal, video game, and action figures. Who didn't camp out in front of a local retailer to help some child get a Rush Hour Halloween costume? And who could forget the hottest Christmas gift of 2001, the Rush Hour Monopoly board game?
Well, I went. I boned up on what I'd missed by reading Roger Ebert's expert, yet blatantly racist, reviews of the first two films. It turns out he dug the story of the Hong Kong cop traveling to L.A. at the behest of a Chinese consul whose daughter has been kidnapped to team up with Chris Tucker, who Ebert adeptly compares to Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. It seems Ebert's favorite part was Brett Ratner's genius at directing the milestone stunts and car chases and the historic explosion sequences. His least favorite part was the Chinaman and the Black Guy. Well, Rog must be on to something, becuase the final installment is not just "Part 3," it's Brett Ratner's Rush Hour 3. The Brett Ratner's Rush Hour 3.
Armed with these astute observations, I bathed and dressed in a purple Steve Harvey suit with my finest patent leather tuxedo shoes. I strutted to the box office doing that goose-necked dance. I fit in perfectly.
And I joined the action without missing a beat, I think. Rush Hour 3 can't find its footing between the slapstick and nonsense of Austin Powers and Beverly Hills Cop. I couldn't understand if I was supposed to believe in the action or laugh at its implausibility.
Chris Tucker, who was genius in Friday, looks puzzled and lost in the semi-serious moments. Jackie Chan is the better actor. Let that soak in. Jackie Chan was the best actor in this movie. Brett Ratner, even though his name is officially part of the movie's title, could not find the middle ground here. The acting and the humor was on par with a Naked Gun movie, while the plot and much of the action would have sufficed for a higher-toned action/adventure film. I was hoping for the movie to settle into a level of realism during the second act, perhaps something like The Family Man, another of Ratner's movies. Max Von Sydow and Roman Polanski have sizable roles, and still, I'm telling you that Jackie Chan's performance was tops. See how that makes it look like Ratner phoned it in? See how many opportunities were missed?
I counted how many successful jokes there were in the movie that weren't in the trailers. There were four jokes that weren't included in the promotional advertisements for Rush Hour 3. Take from that what you will.