You’ll laugh at this mismatched-buddy comedy, which is remarkable, since the film itself is pretty standard stuff. What raises the level is the terrific teamwork of Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins. Robbins plays Nick Beam, a successful ad exec until he decides that his sexy wife, Ann (the ever-delectable Kelly Preston), and his boss, P.B. (the ever-smarmy Michael McKean), are boffing. Driving out of town in a suicidal funk, Nick encounters T. Paul (Lawrence), first-time thief who eases into Nick’s car, pulls a gun and demands cash. “Boy have you picked the wrong guy,” says Nick, who ignores T. Paul, nearly blinds him with mugger mace and defiantly throws his wallet out the window. Nick has nothing to lose.
That’s the one-joke premise upon which the script, written by the film’s director, Steve Oedekerk (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), strains to work variations. Oedekerk, a stand-up comic, wisely leans on his actors. He even does a hilarious bit as a security guard who, thinking himself unobserved, dances like a wild thang in an office that Nick and T. Paul are robbing. But I digress. The plot isn’t worth a mention; the acting is.
Lawrence has had a bad time of late, what with various arrests, a sexual-harassment suit (now settled) and that day off during production when the cops found him raving on the street. Whatever ails Lawrence, it hasn’t hurt his screen appeal or his sharp timing. Robbins is the bigger surprise. After directing the justly acclaimed Dead Man Walking, Robbins revels in doing slapstick and shows an unexpected flair for double takes. Go, Tim. The ending — white man helps black man get a job — is a miscalculation. The rest is redeemable for a smile on a summer night.