If you know anything about Martin Lawrence and his stand-up comedy or movie careers, you know that "Blue Streak," the title of his new film, could easily be a reference to his penchant for profanity.
Surprisingly, (and pleasantly, we might add), while the movie has the requisite vulgarities to earn its PG-13 rating, they aren't so intrusive as to send audiences running for earplugs.
Unfortunately, the relative absence of curse words is not a ringing endorsement for a movie, and "Blue Streak" doesn't have enough going for it to warrant one.
Lawrence, a nice enough fellow with a winning manner and a decent comic touch, has held his own in buddy films against the likes of Will Smith ("Bad Boys"), Tim Robbins ("Nothing to Lose") and, most recently, Eddie Murphy ("Life"), not to mention as star of his eponymous Fox sitcom.
But Lawrence just doesn't have enough acting heft to carry a film as utterly lightweight as "Blue Streak" on his own, though goodness knows he tries.
The effort isn't completely futile. Lawrence is likable as Miles Logan, the leader of a gang of would-be jewel thieves bent on snatching a $20 million diamond.
Of course, the heist goes awry, and Logan is nabbed, but not before stashing the jewel in a construction site. When he is released from jail two years later, Logan intends to reclaim his booty from where he left it.
The problem is, a police precinct station now sits on the spot, and, to get at his cache, Logan falsifies records and turns himself into a wisecracking, go-for-broke detective. At first a mysterious character in the force, he ultimately becomes the hit of the force.
The overall premise is interesting and potentially funny, but director Les Mayfield ("Flubber," "Encino Man") seems to have no clue how to execute it, beyond letting the rubbery-faced Lawrence mug to his heart's content. That works for a while but gets wearying by film's end.
The screenplay, by Michael Berry and John Blumenthal, who teamed for the witty Dabney Coleman 1990 comedy "Short Time," doesn't help matters. It is riddled with cliches, right down to the one where Lawrence's Detective Malone is partnered with a greenhorn detective (Luke Wilson) who becomes slicker and wiser when it's all over.
One significant bright note in "Blue Streak" is the presence of comic Dave Chappelle, one of Logan's jewel thieves, who gets arrested for robbing a convenience store on Detective Malone's watch. Whenever Lawrence and Chappelle are together, the movie frankly crackles, but, alas, those moments are rare.
Starring Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Dave Chappelle, Peter Greene
Directed by Les Mayfield
Released by Columbia Pictures
Rated PG-13 for mild violence and language
Running time 93 minutes
Sun score **