Cedric the Entertainer as Jake Rodgers
Lucy Liu as Gina
Nicollette Sheridan as Diane
Mark Dacascos as Eric Hauck
Callum Keith Rennie as Shaw
Niecy Nash as Jacuzzi
DeRay Davis as Ronnie
Will Patton as Riley
A man (Cedric the Entertainer) wakes up in a hotel lying next to a dead FBI agent and a briefcase full of money with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Faster than you can say “wait, I’ve seen this movie,” femme fatales, gal Fridays, and a swarm of FBI and CIA agents swoop down on the poor fellow trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Is he Jake Rodgers, janitor, or is he Colonel Bowman, special forces commando? Is he Rodgers pretending to be Bowman, or Bowman pretending to be Rodgers? Does anyone really know? Does anyone really care?
There is nothing fresh about “Code Name: The Cleaner,” which doesn’t necessarily have to be the kiss of death for a film a strong enough delivery can put even the oldest material over the top but “Code Name: The Cleaner” doesn’t even have that going for it. It rehashes set-ups from every mistaken identity film since the ’30s. At one point, Jake has to sneak into a hotel disguised as a member of a Dutch clog dancing team that is performing there. I won’t bother telling you how that ends.
Of course, every film is someone’s first, but it would be overly charitable to suggest that this film would be at all funny no matter how new it was. The cast and crew go about their work with a high degree of indifference, as if the premise is so inherently funny nothing more need be done. Watch as Cedric adjusts to living the life of luxury complete with manor house and butler, and the hysterical clash of cultures that ensues. Oh. Stop. My sides are splitting.
The sad thing is, Cedric actually is a gifted entertainer who has done very well in supporting roles in other films, but so far his attempts as a leading man have been less than successful. Maybe it’s not his fault, maybe it’s just the type of films being offered to him. Either way, it’s a waste.
To be fair though, Cedric isn’t what’s wrong with “Code Name: The Cleaner.” He does what he’s supposed to do, but it’s not nearly enough to make this turkey fly. This type of film has been done well even recently, but it requires a careful balance of irony and absurdity, neither of which “Code Name: The Cleaner” possesses. It’s a testament to its inadequacies that the funniest parts are the outtakes over the end credits.
Lucy Liu gets the thankless job of Jake’s gal Friday, Gina, and the rest of the cast fares just about as badly. Following the standard modus operandi for this type of comedy, everyone else is the straight man to Cedric’s buffoonery, which means in general they’re as bland as rice. Nicollete Sheridan gets a little bit of mileage as a femme fatale willing to do almost anything to find out what Jake knows, but not enough to really make a difference. Either Dacascos or Rennie would make a strong villain in another movie, but having them both around here is needlessly pointless in an already pointless film.
There is, I have to admit, one standout in the cast and not in a good way DeRay Davis as a janitor obsessed with dreams of rapper glory that he will reach by rapping about crap, literally. And if that doesn’t work, he’s got a killer video game idea about deadbeat dads trying to avoid paternity suits so they don’t have to pay child support. Annoying doesn’t even begin to describe him. It’s ironic, and a testament to how badly conceived “Code Name: The Cleaner” is that he’s also responsible for the only genuinely funny scene in the film as he attempts to get an FBI agent to shoot him in the ass in order to gain street cred, though it owes less to the strength of the material itself than it does to the vigor with which Davis goes for the joke.
“Code Name: The Cleaner” isn’t the worse comedy ever made; it probably won’t even be the worst of 2007. For the most part it’s simply boring, with fleeting patches of ineptness.