xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
They say baseball is popular because everyone thinks they can play it. Similar reasoning may explain the popularity of the Olsen twins: Teenage girls love them because they believe they could be them. What, after all, do Mary-Kate and Ashley do in "New York Minute" that could not be done by any reasonably presentable female adolescent? Their careers are founded not on what they do, but on the vicarious identification of their fans, who enjoy seeing two girls making millions for doing what just about anybody could do.
The movie offers the spectacle of two cheerful and attractive 17-year-olds who have the maturity of two silly 13-year-olds, and romp through a day's adventures in Manhattan, a city that in this movie is populated entirely by hyperactive character actors. Nothing that happens to them has any relationship to anything else that happens to them, except for the unifying principle that it all happens to them. That explains how they happen to be: (1) chased by a recreational vehicle through heavy traffic; (2) wading through the sewers of New York; (3) getting a beauty makeover in a Harlem salon; (4) in possession of a kidnapped dog; (5) pursued by music pirates; (6) in danger in Chinatown, and (7) ... oh, never mind.
Given the inescapable fact that they are twins, the movie of course gives them completely opposite looks and personalities, and then leads us inexorably to the moment when one will have to impersonate the other. Mary-Kate Olsen plays Roxy Ryan, the sloppy girl who skips school and dreams of getting her demo tape backstage at a "punk rock" video shoot. Ashley Olsen plays Jane Ryan, a goody two-shoes who will win a four-year scholarship to Oxford University if she gives the winning speech in a competition at Columbia. Perhaps in England she will discover that the university is in the town of Oxford, and so can correct friends who plan to visit her in London. (I am sure the screenwriters knew the university was in Oxford, but were concerned that audience members might confuse "going to" Oxford and "being in" Oxford, and played it safe, since London is the only city in England many members of the audience will have heard of, if indeed they have.)
But I'm being mean, and this movie is harmless, and as eager as a homeless puppy to make friends. In fact, it has a puppy. It also has a truant officer, played by Eugene Levy in a performance that will be valuable to film historians, since it demonstrates what Eugene Levy's irreducible essence is when he plays a character who is given absolutely nothing funny to say or do. His performance suggests that he stayed at home and phoned in his mannerisms. More inexplicable is Andy Richter's work as a limousine driver with sinister connections to music piracy rackets. He is given an accent, from where I could not guess, although I could guess why: At a story conference, the filmmakers looked in despair at his pointless character and said, "What the hell, maybe we should give him an accent."
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