What's the Worst That Could Happen? Review

Jun 03, 2001 | 8:42am EDT

In this docile farce from George of the Jungle director Sam Weisman Lawrence and DeVito try to destroy each another--unimaginatively though--over a ring both consider lucky. Lawrence receives the ring as a token of love from girlfriend Carmen Ejogo. Though overly accepting of Lawrence's criminal pursuits Ejogo warns Lawrence never to lie to her about anything. Which puts Lawrence in a bind: lie to Ejogo or tell the embarrassing truth that the ring was stolen by the Boston bigwig whose beachfront mansion he tried to burgle. DeVito's just as crooked; he just manages to hide behind corporate law. Facing bankruptcy DeVito feels his luck change after taking the ring from an apprehended Lawrence. His refusal to return the ring results in open warfare between the two men neither of whom seems interested in what's at stake beyond the prized possession now adorning DeVito's finger.

Lawrence's career consists of playing either cops or robbers and audiences seem to accept him no matter which side of the law he's on. Perhaps this can be attributed to his insistence on offering the same resourceful and good-natured wise guy no matter whether he's busting felons or committing felonies. Unfortunately given What's the Worst's potentially spiteful scenario Lawrence lacks the necessary nasty streak to take on the kind of single-minded scumbag DeVito so deliciously offers. Not that it matters because DeVito indulges in nothing more vicious than spitting out a string of expletives on live television. Thank goodness for William Fichtner and his effeminate police detective. Dressed like he's plundered Tom Wolfe's wardrobe Fichtner garners more laughs with a mere swish of his manicured hand than Lawrence and DeVito can muster during 90 minutes of bloodless war games.

Based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake What's the Worst that Could Happen? should put its sparring partners through hell and back. It never does. Lawrence merely devises elaborate ways to burgle DeVito's numerous homes. DeVito fails to come up with any entertaining retaliations and repercussions are far and few between. Sure DeVito's out a few bucks but he's got plenty more to play with. And Lawrence never faces the prospect of being arrested once the games begin. Director Sam Weisman and screenwriter Matthew Chapman seem too hesitant to allow the proceedings to get down and dirty. Lawrence and DeVito are like two friends fighting over the last beer in the refrigerator. Heck most of us have seen gorier playground brawls. Things do perk up somewhat when Lawrence and DeVito clash face to face--it's a damn funny sight to see DeVito trying to whoop Lawrence's butt--but they rarely cross paths.

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