A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this dreadful spy comedy pushes the PG-13 edge with regard to sexual imagery and humor. Main character Jake makes lots of crude jokes about his "prowess," and women constantly appear in various states of undress and/or otherwise show off their assets (Nicollette Sheridan essentially reprises her vavoomy Desperate Housewives role, but it's not funny here). The movie's action-comedy-style violence is broad and brutal (though mostly bloodless), including shooting, car crashes, grenades exploding, and martial arts fighting. Language is obnoxious, with slang and obscenities used througout, including repeated uses of "s--t," "damn," and "hell."
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What's the story?
In CODE NAME: THE CLEANER, Jake (Cedric the Entertainer) finds himself in a hotel room bed with a bloody corpse -- but with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Running from the room with a briefcase full of cash, Jake begins to piece together his past when he meets sultry Diane (Nicollette Sheridan), who claims to be his wife. When at last Jake overhears her plot to shoot him full of drugs, he takes off with the briefcase again. A meeting with a second woman suggests a second possible past. Sexy, feisty diner waitress Gina (Lucy Liu) reports that Jake is janitor. But thanks to some apparent flashbacks that place him in an elite military unit, shooting up "bad guys" and blowing up buildings, Jake ultimately believes a third option.
Is it any good?
Crude and mostly pathetic, Code Name: The Cleaner rips off almost every other action-comedy film of the past decade, especially those starring Martin Lawrence and Jackie Chan. From its weak premise to its boring action to its unpleasant jokes, director Les Mayfield's movie fulfills the worst expectations of January releases: It's awful.
The plot involves a super-important computer chip, video games, FBI agents, and a Dutch clogging demonstration, as well as an ambitious janitor (DeRay Davis) who raps about plungers and mops and a fierce CEO who also happens to be a lethal martial arts expert (Mark Decascos). No, these various elements don't ever come together to make sense. And yes, Jake does remember who he is. Not that you'd care.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's use of class and race stereotypes -- particularly the way it contrasts Jake's working-class background with the rich characters' stuffiness.
Does embracing stereotypes for comic effect make them easier to swallow?
Why are jokes based on stereotypes more or less funny depending on who delivers them?
Families can also discuss the film's treatment of its female characters. How do the two main women embody the opposite versions of Jake's fantasy self?
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