This movie has a terrific cast and some very funny moments. But there is an overall slackness and an underlying cynicism that takes this outside of the category of mindless fun and makes it uncomfortably distasteful.
Martin Lawrence plays a thief named Kevin who falls in love with a pretty English anthropologist named Amber (Carmen Ejogo). She gives him a lucky ring that once belonged to her father. He and a pal named Berger (John Leguizamo) break into what they think is the deserted vacation home of Max (Danny De Vito), only to find that Max is there, having an assignation with Miss September. Max captures Kevin and calls the police. When they arrest Kevin, Max sees the ring and tells the police that it is his. They believe him, and make Kevin give Max the ring. Kevin spends the rest of the movie trying to get revenge – and trying to get the ring back, too.
The movie’s underlying premise is that everyone is a thief and that the only difference between the businessman, the politician, the lawyer, and the man who steals is that at least the professional thief is honest about what he does. Some people, like Donald Westlake, the author of the book that inspired this movie, can make that premise seem wickedly delicious. But screenwriter and director Sam Weisman, remove the satiric twists to make it into a star vehicle for Lawrence and the result lacks any sense of dramatic build-up. Instead of two wily adversaries, it is so one-sided in favor of Lawrence’s character that any narrative arc evaporates. It’s just a string of skits.
That might be all right – some of the skits are pretty funny and I don’t insist on logic or political correctness or even trivial consistencies in a movie. But there is something unsettling about the underlying assumptions here, especially the smug self-righteousness of the thieves (including Max). Ask us to believe that Kevin is a crook and the hero of the movie, and we can accept it. But it is a little harder to accept that his girlfriend is an educated, loyal, devoted person who is happy to be a “perky” waitress and wait up nights for Kevin to come home from a hard night of packing other people’s things into his bag of loot. The mincing gay detective and the evil businessman who uses Yiddish and his long-suffering lawyer and mistress are tired stereotypes. And too much simply does not make sense. The last scene in particular is nothing more than a chance to put Lawrence in a huge Afro and pretend that everyone is living happily ever after.
Parents should know that the movie includes drinking, smoking, swearing, and sexual references and situations. A woman has sex with a man who does her a favor, and this is shown as charming and even romantic. The stereotypes mentioned above will make many families uncomfortable.
Families who see this movie should talk about the idea that everyone is a thief of one kind or another, and what they think would be a fair resolution.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of Lawrence’s other movies, like “Big Momma’s House” and “Bad Boys” (both for more mature audiences).