Double Take

Many comedies are based on the personalities of the performers: If you think the guys are funny in general, you’ll like the movie. Mike Myers, Martin Lawrence and Adam Sandler all work in this genre.

Well, “Double Take” is proof that we’ve taken the performer-as-entertainment train to the end of the line. Writer/director George Gallo is so convinced we’ll find Orlando Jones and Eddie Griffin funny just because they’re Orlando Jones and Eddie Griffin, that he doesn’t even bother coming up with a coherent plot or writing jokes for them. Just put ’em on the screen and let ’em be!

Eddie Griffin, who follows in the fast-talking, punch-line-muttering footsteps of Chris Tucker and Jamie Foxx, plays a nickel-and-dime con man named Freddy Tiffany. His target of late is wealthy businessman Daryl Chase (Jones), a Bryant Gumbel-ish suit-wearer not at all in touch with his inner homey.

Daryl winds up wanted for murder after stupidly picking up the gun at the scene of his secretary’s killing. He had been in touch previously with an FBI agent named McCready (Gary Grubbs), who needs Daryl’s help in bringing down a Mexican soda company that’s really a front for a drug cartel. He told Daryl to call if he had any problems, and now, fearing the feds won’t believe Daryl’s story, he tells him to high-tail it to Mexico, where McCready can protect him.

After running into Freddy for, like, the millionth time, Daryl hatches a plan: He and Freddy switch clothes, thus helping him escape on a train to Mexico. Once he gets there, he discovers that Freddy is wanted for the murder of a Mexican governor. Suddenly, being mistaken for Freddy is no safer than being correctly identified as himself.

The laughs early on are supposed to be at the contrasts. Daryl is button-down, while Freddy is like Robin Williams on crack, doing “outrageous” things like slapping nuns on the rear end and talking a mile a minute.

Problem is, that jokes wears thin, and then it disappears altogether. The plot is amazingly convoluted, the film apparently thinking it’s remaking “North by Northwest.” By the final absurd showdown South of the Border, the focus has become the ridiculous story (one that prefers to announce surprise twists rather than develop characters or build interest) and the laughs have been forgotten. Just as well, really, since they were never very good to begin with.

D (; PG-13, abundant mid-level profanity, a lot.)