The funniest thing about “Code Name: The Cleaner” comes before the story begins when the possessive credit “a Les Mayfield film” flashes on the screen. It’s funny because most movie-goers won’t have a clue who Les Mayfield is and here he is proudly claiming to have created an stupidly bad picture. It may be even funnier if you do know who he is because he is the director of flicks like “Flubber” and “The Man,” the kind of bilge from which most guys would pay to be disassociated.Cedric the Entertainer stars as Jake, who has amnesia and is either a janitor who thinks he’s a secret agent or a secret agent who thinks he’s a janitor. Or maybe a monk who dreams he’s a butterfly. Lucy Liu is Gina, who may just be the hash-hauling waitress she seems to be, or she could be an FBI agent. Nicollette Sheridan (“Desperate Housewives) is Diane, who may be Jake’s wife if he turns out to be a rich software guru instead of a spy or a janitor. I’m the guy in the audience who may or may not be snoozing.
So Jake wakes up in a hotel bedroom in bed next to a dead FBI agent. Jake’s been smacked up side the head so he can’t remember who he is or how he got there. He is aware enough to steal a case with $250,000 in it. He may not know a turd from a Baby Ruth, but he does know what Benjamin Franklin looks like.
Diane finds him and takes him to a mansion she claims is his home, but we quickly learn that She is Not What She Seems and is plotting with someone to get from Jake a computer chip he somehow acquired that has embedded on it Something That is Not Good.
Jake escapes her nefarious clutches (the worst kind) and falls in with Gina, a waitress with whom he seems to be carrying on a sexless friendship. This movie has poor Sheridan wandering around in her undies and is more suggestive than a picture of a blind man with hairy palms, but there is no actual nudity.
Unfortunately, the script by George Gallo and Robert Adetuyi doesn’t contain any actual humor, either. The movie is haphazardly amusing but that’s only because Cedric is haphazardly amusing no matter what kind of terrible picture he finds himself in. Liu is, of course, one of the all-too-infrequently used wonders of filmdom.
A keen observation on this kind of movie—the kind that wants to blend smart-aleck comedy with genre filmmaking—came from Kirk Honeycutt of “The Hollywood Reporter” when he wrote that people who want to make this stuff should sit down and study some of Bob Hope’s pictures from the 1940s to see how it’s done.
It wouldn’t hurt, too, to cast someone who could be a legitimate leading man. Do they really expect us to believe that Cedric could be a CIA operative? I have trouble just seeing him as a lead. He’s a supporting character actor, and a darn good one, but he’s not a name above the title kinda guy.Even though “Code Name: The Cleaner” is the first comedy I’ve seen in 2007, it’s still not the best. Nor the worst. It was born to be in the low end of the middle, and that’s where it is.