A scene from 'What's the Worst That Could Happen?'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 95 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, June 1, 2001
Directed by Sam Weisman

Starring Martin Lawrence, Danny DeVito, John Leguizamo, Glenne Headly, Carmen Ejogo, William Fichtner, Bernie Mac, Larry Miller, Nora Dunn, Richard Schiff, Ana Gasteyer, Siobhan Fallon, Lenny Clark


This is the kind of comedy that loses pizzazz on the small screen. You may wonder why I liked it at all if you rent it.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 01.02.2002


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Lawrence, DeVito have comedic combatant chemistry as buglar and billionaire victim in funny caper flick

By Rob Blackwelder

Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito -- two stars with pretty shaky comedy credits of late -- seem to be tempting fate with the title of their new criminal vs. corporate scoundrel caper. It's called "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" and the answer to that question is, the entire movie could have been as dim-witted and haphazard as its last five minutes.

But until director Sam Weisman ("George of the Jungle," "The Out-of-Tonwers" remake) starts running out of story and grasping at straws in the middle of the last act, it's pretty generous with the laughs.

Lawrence plays a professional cat burglar who hears on the news that a media tycoon (DeVito) has been ordered to vacate one of his mansions as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. Lawrence imagines easy pickings at a plush billionaire's pad that's guaranteed to be uninhabited. Little does he know that DeVito has figured on sneaking into the empty house to cheat on his snooty, country club wife (Nora Dunn) with a buxom centerfold sucking up to him for a job at his TV network.

Catching him with an armload of loot, DeVito has Lawrence arrested. Then just because he's a cad and wants to rub it in a little, the billionaire grabs a garish ring off Lawrence's finger, insisting it was stolen as well. I mean, who are the cops going to believe?

But the ring was Lawrence's lucky charm, and a present from his girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo). So he'll be damned if he's going to let DeVito keep it. He escapes from the cops and sets off on an antic, escalating mission to get the bobble back.

Lawrence and DeVito -- who is determined to keep the ring as a spoil of war -- have superb chemistry as comedic combatants, and their determination to out-smart each other is what drives the plot. Lawrence crashes a banquet honoring DeVito's wife but fails get the ring back after embarrassing his nemesis. Next he breaks into DeVito's condo, and again has no luck. Soon he's following the man to Washington, D.C., where DeVito is to face a Senate hearing looking into corruption in his monopoly media empire. DeVito is as crooked as a dog's leg, and Lawrence has a hay day wreaking havoc on his plans to bribe legislators.

"What's the Worst" is very uneven and veers into some of its least plausible schtick during these scenes. But even when the plot gets stretched to accommodate unnecessarily stupid gimmicks and has to BS its way to a conclusion, it stays reliably funny because of the cast.

Without losing his edge, Lawrence forgoes some of his stereotypical loudmouth routine, offering up a little more character instead. DeVito is perfectly cast as a slimeball materialist. And these two are backed by some of the funniest B-players in the business.

DeVito's lackeys include Glenne Headly ("Dick Tracy," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") and Larry Miller (the university president in the "Nutty Professor" remakes). On Lawrence's side there's Leguizamo, stand-up comic Bernie Mac, Ana Gasteyer (one of the few funny people on "Saturday Night Live") and the hilarious Siobhan Fallon (the cynical secretary in "The Negotiator" and the farm wife whose husband becomes a bug in "Men In Black"). The most off-the-wall character in the movie, though, is the detective investigating the burglaries. He's a very fey dandy with a walking stick, a flamboyant wardrobe and about an inch of foundation on his effeminate face -- and frankly, the character is in pretty poor taste. But idiosyncratically creepy actor William Fichtner ("The Perfect Storm," "Go," "Contact") is so whimsically weird in the part, you just have to laugh.

"What's the Worst" isn't a great comedy by any stretch of the imagination, and it keeps going long after it runs out of story. But it definitely has five bucks worth of matinee mirth for a lazy summer afternoon.

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