It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
How does a guy like Jim Carrey get his first chance to perform anarchic comedy in a movie? Now that he's a star, directors are, of course, happy to let him run wild. But how did he get his foot in the door in the first place? How did they know they should hand him the scenery and a knife and fork? I wonder because in "Money Talks,'' a comedian named Chris Tucker has his own foot jammed in the same door, and you can see his talent blossom right there before your eyes.
The movie is not distinguished. It's a clone of the black-white buddy pictures, with a little of "48 Hrs." and "Lethal Weapon" and "Nothing to Lose" thrown in. The plot is so dumb that at one point, terrorists blow up a prison bus so that their leader can escape, and no one even considers the possibility that, gee, maybe the leader could get blown up along with everyone else on the bus. He isn't, and that's just as well, because he's handcuffed to Franklin Hatchett, the Chris Tucker character, and we're going to need him for the rest of the movie.
You may remember Tucker from "The Fifth Element," where his character went on endlessly, as an emcee in a nightclub on a space station. Watching that movie, I felt the Tucker role derailed the ending by continuing too long on the wrong note, as a distraction. But in "Money Talks,'' where he has more of a character to develop and an opportunity to experiment with his voice and style, Tucker has a personal triumph. He's funny in that cocky, freefall way that Carrey and Jerry Lewis get away with: He's floating on inspiration and improvisation, like a musician.
Consider the scene where he is presented at a black-tie wedding party for a rich Italian American, played by Paul Sorvino. Sorvino is dubious about this black man he's never seen before. But Tucker, who earlier in the day happened to watch a TV ad for the greatest hits of Vic Damone, has a brainstorm: He introduces himself as Vic Damone Jr., the son of the singer and Diahann Carroll. Sorvino embraces the Italian connection, ignores the African-American component, and is blissful as Tucker recalls a childhood spent among other juniors: "Junior Walker Jr., Sammy Davis Junior Jr ... .'' I'm not giving Tucker credit for this hilarious scene, which was written by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow. But I'm crediting him with how he sells it: The lines are funny, but Tucker runs with them, and there's a kind of wink to the audience as he relaunches himself as Vic Damone's son: We know he knows exactly what he's doing.