Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Code Name: The Cleaner

Illustration for article titled Code Name: The Cleaner

Comedy is generally the least demanding genre in terms of cinematics: At minimum, filmmakers just need to establish a comic situation, then let the cameras roll. So what happens when they're so busy with the perfunctory business of setting up the gags that they have little time for the gags themselves? Movies like Code Name: The Cleaner, a Cedric The Entertainer vehicle that wastes so much energy on parsing out a convoluted plot that its stars' brightest moments are saved for the blooper reel in the closing credits. Though it's labeled as a comedy, in the majority of the scenes, it's like a straight-to-video action thriller, albeit with Cedric feebly trying to assert himself whenever he gets the opportunity. Much like Les Mayfield's Martin Lawrence vehicle Blue Streak, the film imagines itself as Beverly Hills Cop revisited, but neither the stars nor Mayfield have the chops for it.

Taking a page or two from The Bourne Identity, Code Name opens with an amnesiac Cedric waking up in a hotel room next to a dead FBI agent and a briefcase containing $250,000. With few clues about his real identity, Cedric gets some help from Nicollette Sheridan, who claims to be his wife and takes him to their gorgeous mansion, which comes with a snooty English butler who obliges his taste for Skittles and back issues of Jet magazine. That sounds like a solid enough fish-out-of-water situation, but it doesn't last for long. Once Cedric catches wind of Sheridan's nefarious intent, he chooses to trust waitress Lucy Liu, who claims to be his girlfriend and informs him of some high-tech weapons scheme he may have thwarted before losing his memory. It seems that while working as a janitor at a video-game company, he witnessed something he shouldn't have, though Cedric insists that he's really an undercover agent.


Though he cycles through several different guises—rich guy, superspy with fists of fury, lowly toilet-scrubber, and exuberant Dutch clogger (best not to ask about that last one)—Cedric is still Cedric, a wisecracking slob trying to improv his way out of trouble. There's really no excuse for a meaningless plot involving a computer chip (what, no microfilm?) to tangle up the action so frequently, but the few moments devoted entirely to comedy aren't exactly promising. Musty jokes about snooty English butlers might be forgivable, but not when other highlights include Cedric spanking an old lady in an elevator (she likes it) or a janitor who raps about mopping up doodie. It's a bad sign for a comedy when viewers are left pining for more ineptly staged shoot-'em-up sequences.

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