Film and TV

It's No Gem

Since his TV show ended, Martin Lawrence has gotten more ink for his off-camera life than for his movie career. There's nothing about Blue Streak that is likely to change that. And it's a shame, because the basic plot -- which sounds like something from one of Donald E. Westlake's Dortmunder novels -- is promising. While the credits run, we see a fourteen-minute sequence in which Miles Logan (Lawrence) and three cronies steal a priceless diamond from a high-rise in downtown L.A. Not surprisingly, things go awry when one of the gang (Peter Greene) decides to grab the loot for himself.

But before he can get it, the cops show up, and Logan manages to stash the gem in a heating duct in an unfinished building across the street before he's caught. Two years later, Logan gets out of prison and -- after a short, pointless scene where he looks up his ex-girlfriend -- heads downtown to reclaim his other booty. Imagine his dismay when he realizes that the construction site is now a police station. There is only one answer to his problem: masquerade as a cop just long enough to get access to heavily protected parts of the building and retrieve the diamond.

You can predict where this is going. Logan is welcomed into the precinct as a new transfer and is assigned dorky greenhorn Carlson (Luke Wilson) as his partner. Every time Logan tries to go after the diamond, he gets waylaid by some obligation of the job. And, given his background, he has better skill and more knowledge to fight crime than Carlson or anyone else on the force. Within 36 hours, he's the new star of the LAPD.

Despite the basic ingenuity of the hook, neither Lawrence nor director Les Mayfield (Flubber, Encino Man) nor writers Michael Berry, John Blumenthal and Steve Carpenter have managed to come up with much that's genuinely funny. The only really witty moment is when Logan, accompanying Carlson to their squad car for the first time, instinctively starts to get into the back seat. Balance that against three discrete scenes of unrelated fat jokes within the first fifteen minutes after the story proper begins.

While the idea may be good, its execution is awful. The plot never makes a whit of sense, nor do the characters behave in a way that is consistent with their personalities or best interests. Logan, in particular, keeps breaking into outrageous, flamboyant antics when he's supposed to be avoiding attention. For no reason -- other than, presumably, to provide shots for the TV ad -- he drives like a lunatic. He grandstands in front of a roomful of officers. He gives lip to a bunch of uptight FBI guys.

Toward the end, things really unravel. The mechanism by which Logan helps solve a big drug case is completely incomprehensible; the way he manages to foil a getaway -- slamming on his brakes at a high speed while immediately in front of the getaway truck -- would certainly be effective if one didn't care about dying in the process.

Lawrence has worked with Eddie Murphy a couple of times, and any comparison with the latter in Bowfinger is all to Lawrence's disfavor. Early on in the story, he makes a foray into the heavy-makeup impersonation territory that is frequently part of Murphy's shtick, but Lawrence's version of it is simply broad and unfunny. The script was almost certainly written with Murphy in mind, but even his superior talents couldn't have rescued it from its considerable flaws.

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Andy Klein