'Code name: The Cleaner' is a mess


Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 10:53 p.m.

Jimmy Kimmel once joked that Cedric the Entertainer chose that name for himself because it paid better than going by "Cedric the Janitor."

Now Cedric is stuck playing a janitor in "Code Name: The Cleaner," the kind of ridiculously silly movie that only comes out during the notorious dumping ground of the first week of January (if you'll pardon the trash pun).

The comedian stars as custodian Jake Rodgers, who believes he's a super spy when he wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead FBI agent and a suitcase full of cash, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. (Director Les Mayfield says the intention was to create a comic take on "The Bourne Identity." Somewhere, Robert Ludlum is spinning in his grave.)

Lucy Liu gets to show off her "Charlie's Angels" fighting skills as Cedric's waitress girlfriend, Gina, and Nicolette Sheridan gets to show off her "Desperate Housewives" bod as Diane, the seductress who may or may not be his wife.

Except for a couple of Cedric's ad-libs, which are funnier in the closing-credit outtakes than in the movie itself, the whole thing is just lame and inane.

Jake bumbles his way from one situation to the next with Gina, looking for a secret computer chip from the video game company where he works, which he may have hidden someplace before he got bonked on the head. Various generic baddies are on their tail looking for the chip, too, including a corrupt FBI agent (Callum Keith Rennie) and the video game company's slick CEO (Mark Dacascos).

But he gets to have some fun, too — at least it's presented as fun, even though it's not funny — practicing his horrendous golf swing and ordering random stuff from the butler at the mansion he thinks is his. He also dresses up and performs as part of a clog-dancing group to sneak back into the hotel where the killing happened, which is vaguely amusing because he just looks so goofy and out of place.

In theory we're supposed to be piecing together the mystery of who Jake is and what happened to him. But it's hard to invest that kind of energy in this character, and this film, because it's so painfully shallow. (Mayfield previously directed "Encino Man," "Flubber" and "The Man," and the script comes from Robert Adetuyi and George Gallo.)

Whether Cedric's character is truly a highly trained special ops stud or just a regular guy who's played too many video games, the memory of this movie will have left your brain before you walk out of the theater. If you're lucky.

"Code Name: The Cleaner," a New Line Cinema release, is rated PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor and some language. Running time: 91 minutes. One star our of four.

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