- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

"Whats the Worst That Could Happen?" is a title that obviously cries out to backfire. The timing proves kind to its shortcomings, which wed insufficient cleverness to an overabundance of tedium. In the year of "Freddy Got Fingered," every other misbegotten farce is competing for runner-up status. The worst has been experienced already.
A co-starring fizzle, "Whats the Worst …" demands unmerited patience with Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito, respectively cast as an amorous professional thief named Kevin Caffery and an unscrupulous, bankrupt business tycoon named Max Fairbanks. The pretext is so weak that its difficult to tell if the performers are just a mismatch or the material would handcuff anyone who happened to overrate it.
A war of reprisal is triggered when Kevin is caught robbing a Fairbanks mansion near Boston. Max happens to be on the scene, entertaining a buxom houseguest named Tracey Kimberly (Sascha Knopf, arguably a funnier name). He gets the drop on Kevin and finds it amusing to claim ownership of a ring recently given to the thief by his new sweetheart, Amber Belhaven of England (Carmen Ejogo), grateful that he stole a cherished painting she was forced to sell at auction. The police believe Max. Kevin stages a speedy escape from custody and returns to clean out the mansion, but Max manages to conceal the disputed love-token ring.
Assisted by a would-be adorable entourage, Kevin targets additional dwellings to put the squeeze on mulish Max. The diminutive sneak has an entourage of his own, ranging from a forgiving spouse (Nora Dunn), who ultimately controls the family purse strings, to a blundering security chief (Larry Miller), who is no match for Team Caffery. The "team" finds room for Bernie Mac as an introspective fence and John Leguizamo as an amateur dialect comedian in his pidgin-Arabic and pidgin-German routines. The subsidiary nature of the womens roles is meant to be transcended at the denouement, when Mrs. Fairbanks and Amber conspire to remedy the conflict.
Director Sam Weisman and screenwriter Matthew Chapman, adapting a caper novel by Donald E. Westlake, allow the felonious rivalry to get bogged down in overcomplicated and overcalculated stings and counterstings. Perhaps they imagined that an irresistible update of "The Sting" was in their grasp. It would be a blessing if they could concentrate on something essential. A laborious and expendable side trip to Washington showcases Mr. DeVito in an obscene rant while testifying before a Senate committee. I think this is meant to be confused with political satire.
The only brainstorm that seems to pay dividends, though gratuitously, is an out-of-left-field gay gambit entrusted to the often sinister character actor William Fichtner, now drafted to impersonate a supremely effete sleuth named Alex Tardio.
Tardio affects foppish outfits and cracks the case between taking his three poodles for walks around Boston and casting ambiguous glances at Glenne Headly as Mr. DeVitos disillusioned girl Friday.
The most positive outcome of "Whats the Worst …" might be a spinoff sitcom for Mr. Fichtner as overgroomed, know-it-all Tardio. Maybe he could evolve into the dressier successor to Peter Falks Columbo and Angela Lansburys Jessica Fletcher.


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