The laughs come in waves whipped up from Rush Hour 2’s audience by the hurricane of Asian jokes blowing from the mouth of Chris Tucker’s Detective James Carter. Funny, I’m left high and dry: Tucker’s new GQ minstrel show set on (and at the expense of) the stereotypically corrupt Hong Kong stage of Jackie Chan’s Detective Lee doesn’t tickle me.
Let’s rewind. We last left our heroes of 1998’s Rush Hour on a flight from LA to Hong Kong for R&R after successfully — and spectacularly — rescuing the plucky 11-year-old daughter of a Chinese diplomat from the evil clutches of a kidnapper. They touch down in the first year of the new millennium. Lee is cooler and Carter is buffed out as they roll down the neon-decked streets of Hong Kong’s night life.
But Carter’s vacation comes to an end with a phone call: Two U.S. officials have been killed in a bombing and Lee is put on the case. Soon the Pacific Rim’s dynamic duo is tearing through Lee’s city on the trail of bomber Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), as young and pretty as she is ruthless and sadistic (or, as Carter simply puts it, a “crazy-ass bitch”). The chase takes them to crime lord Ricky Tan (John Lone) and on the way they stumble upon beautiful Secret Service agent Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), undercover as American hotel magnate Steven Reign’s (Alan King) consort, and the plot thickens like cold Chinese gravy.
Rush Hour 2’s story line pulls Chan and Tucker through scenes and set pieces that showcase their skills. Chan’s unbelievable gymnastic agility and acting chops share the screen with Tucker’s mad dance and newfound martial arts prowess — and his loud mouth (Don Cheadle in a cameo appearance as one of Carter’s LA informants calls him “7-11 ... ’cause his mouth never closes.”)
But it’s the words coming out of that mouth that are the problem. Rush Hour 2 amps up the Asian and black jokes of Rush Hour, ignorantly perpetuating stereotypes that the first movie challenged. It’s a flick with very little comic rush.
Visit the official Rush Hour 2 Web site at rushhour2.com.
E-mail James Keith La Croix at firstname.lastname@example.org.