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(2001) (Eddie Griffin, Orlando Jones) (PG-13)

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Comedy: Mistakenly viewed as a murderer, an investment banker goes on the run and switches identities with a seemingly crazy man, only to discover that his replacement is higher on the "most wanted" list than he is.
Daryl Chase (ORLANDO JONES) is a New York investment banker with a good boss, Charles Allsworth (EDWARD HERRMANN), and beautiful lingerie model girlfriend, Chloe (GARCELLE BEAUVAIS). All of that changes when he notices some irregularities in an account involving a Mexican businessman by the name of Chela (SHAWN ELLIOT). Suddenly, an attempt is made on Daryl's life and he finds himself under the protection of CIA agent T.J. McCready (GARY GRUBBS) and his partner, Martinez (BENNY NIEVES).

They inform him of several things. For starters, Chela is really the head of the Gutierrez drug cartel that's involved in money laundering. They also tell him that he should avoid two men, agents Gradney (STERLING MACER) and Norville (DANIEL ROEBUCK), who are trailing him, and definitely stay away from Freddy Tiffany (EDDIE GRIFFIN), a seemingly crazy con man who always seems to show up wherever Daryl might be.

When Daryl goes to see his personal assistant, he finds her murdered and then in the middle of a brief gun battle that leaves one thug and two cops dead. Spotted by neighbors who believe him to be the killer, Daryl boards a train headed for Mexico, but only after switching identities with Freddy to avoid being noticed by everyone.

The two clash on their way down south, with Daryl not being sure of Freddy's claim of being a former FBI agent and repeatedly trying to get rid of him. Arriving at the border by himself, Daryl is shocked to discover that Freddy is even more of a fugitive than he is, being wanted for the murder of a Mexican Governor.

As Daryl tries to sort all of this out and clear his name, he must deal with Captain Garcia (CARLOS CARRASCO), a corrupt Mexican cop; Junior Barnes (BRENT BRISCOE), an emu farmer intent on collecting a reward for capturing Daryl; Maque Sanchez (ANDREA NAVEDO), a woman who claims to be Daryl's wife; and, of course, Freddy who repeatedly finds the perplexed banker whose life has been turned completely upside down.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
At various points in most people's lives and for varying reasons, there comes a time when we all want to be someone else, even if just for one day. Kids want to be like their older siblings, relatives or neighbors, while teens want to be adults who, when they get old enough, want to be kids again. Then there are those who want to look like certain celebrities or live what looks like their pampered lifestyles.

That's one explanation for the popularity of movies. For two hours or so, a film, if done correctly, can make us imagine we're Indiana Jones or Erin Brockovich, and such escapism frees us from our everyday, often mundane lives.

A certain sub-genre of films takes that one step further by having their characters assume/take the identity of someone else for any number of reasons, or involving two characters who willingly exchange identities just to see how the other half lives, etc. The fun then, in films ranging from "The Parent Trap" to "Dead Ringers," is in seeing how they attempt to do just that and whether they manage to fool others while doing so.

Such films usually work better as comedies since viewers and critics tend to be a bit more lenient toward the related plot mechanisms of such films than they do with their dramatic counterparts. That said, even such leniency doesn't help the latest switching identities film, "Double Take."

A boisterously messy and convoluted comedy about a straight-laced investment banker who exchanges identities with a seemingly crazy con man after being framed and mistaken as a murderer, this picture offers a few, random laughs. Yet, it's so haphazardly constructed and executed, not to mention being beset with all sorts of other problems, that it's hard to imagine it's going to find many forgiving viewers who will overlook all of that.

Beyond a sketchily conceived, underlying story that allows for/necessitates the switching of identities, one of the film's biggest problems is that it can't decide if it wants to be a comedy or high-octane, action thriller. Then there's the fact that the identity switching elements consist only of changing clothes and donning the stereotypical characteristics of their "partner," and, more importantly, that it's just not that funny or interesting for that matter.

Loosely basing the plot on a now obscure 1957 U.K. film, "Across the Bridge," where Rod Steiger's character throws another man off the train and then assumes his identity only to discover that comes with unwanted baggage, writer/director George Gallo ("29 Street," writer of "Midnight Run") tries to balance the comedy and action with both occasionally occurring in the same scene. While other films have successfully accomplished just that, the end result here feels extremely haphazard and disjointed, with no true sense of momentum or depth for either genre.

While the comedy obviously seems less forced than the action thanks to the presence of comedians Orlando Jones ("The Replacements," TV's "Mad TV") and Eddie Griffin ("Foolish," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo") in the lead roles, the film only occasionally manages to be amusing and funny, but rarely as outrageous as the cast and crew probably envisioned.

Much of the picture feels as if Gallo let his two performers lose on the set and simply filmed their improvised goofing off. While such moments usually make for good "out take" scenes that occasionally roll during the closing credits or now appear in the supplemental materials of the DVD release, when they occur in the final film here, they often come off as vignettes that don't mesh well with each other.

The most noticeable problem, however, is that Jones and Griffin don't particularly look alike in appearance or height. As a result, they simply wear the other's clothes and don the attitude and slang of their counterpart, but don't end up fooling anyone but strangers with their switch. Thus, the potential for comedy stemming from the mistaken identity setup becomes severely limited in scope and magnitude.

It doesn't help that Gallo's plot is a mishmash of genres, subplots and characters seemingly thrown together at will without any concern about their effect on the overall story. While certain occurrences and behavior are eventually explained by late in the game developments and revelations, they come too late to offset the bad impression they'll leave in viewer's minds as they unfold (such as Griffin's character always managing to show up wherever Jones' character happens to be).

Of course, for a film like this to work, the performances and the material driving them have to be funny. Unfortunately, without the latter, Jones and Griffin can't do much. Best known for his 7-Up commercials, Jones seems ill at ease in his straight man role, and simply isn't that funny when allowed to cut up.

Griffin, on the other hand, goes too far in the other direction, creating one of those over the top, manic characters that are an acquired taste. While some may appreciate the actor's antics, I far more often found them irritating rather than funny. The various supporting roles and related performances are all of the throw away variety, with no one in particular standing out.

With only a few laughs to be had, this incongruous and haphazardly assembled film simply isn't very good. Its likely fate is a quick trip to the video shelves where viewers probably won't be any more likely to give it a second glance than they will in theaters. Far more often lame and disjointed than not, "Double Take" rates as just a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed January 9, 2001 / Posted January 12, 2001

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