Back when comedic duos were funny

Our list of ten great ‘buddy films’ does not include Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy’s uninspired new movie, ‘The Man’

Erin Adler

Every so often, a movie comes out that is so unimaginative it’s hard to picture even the screenwriter feigning enthusiasm for it, let alone staying awake for the end.

The film “The Man,” which opened in theaters recently, inspires such thoughts.

Yes, it’s that dull.

“The Man” stars two well-known actors, tough-guy Samuel L. Jackson and the perennially awkward Eugene Levy. The two are brought together by an unsolved murder and a case of mistaken identity, but what follows is this: Andy Fidler (Levy) is annoying, and cop Derrick Vann (Jackson) is annoyed – period.

Even the tagline, “One walks the walk. The other talks and talks,” sounds like it was never truly fleshed out. The previews reinforce that suspicion. The trailer features Andy referring to Derrick as “homie” and attempting to show Derrick that he is, in fact, “the man.” This is followed by a hilarious sequence in which Derrick tells Andy not to say anything, and Andy (surprise!) can’t shut up.

In addition to playing into stereotypes (Jackson again plays the foreboding black man while Levy plays the geeky Jewish guy), the movie further typecasts each actor. Jackson, in particular, is a much better actor than this film allows him to be.

The movie seems like it was supposed to be a “buddy” or “comedic duo” flick, one in which two characters with very different personalities try to solve a problem or embark on a journey. They become (or remain) close friends despite their conflicts. Recent films, such as “Wedding Crashers,” prove that Hollywood still remembers what a movie like this can be, but others, despite the industry’s love for prescriptive plots, get the simple formula all wrong.

To refresh the memories of filmmakers everywhere, here is a list of the best comedic duos in American film and the movies that prove the pairing works:

“Men in Black” (1996), Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith

“Grumpy Old Men” (1993), Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon

“Thelma and Louise” (1991), Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis

“Lethal Weapon” (1987), Danny Glover and Mel Gibson

“Dumb and Dumber” (1994), Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels

“Big Business” (1988), Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler

“Tommy Boy” (1995), Chris Farley and David Spade

“The Blues Brothers” (1980), Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi

“Rush Hour” (1998), Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (1987), John Candy and Steve Martin

Honorable Mention: Owen Wilson. Whether he’s paired with Ben Stiller in “Starsky & Hutch” (2004), his brother Luke in “Bottle Rocket” (1996) or Jackie Chan in “Shanghai Noon” (2000), Wilson is the ultimate buddy.