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Gag Fest


Held Up (PG-13)
Trimark Pictures

In today's enlightened environment, there aren't very many groups of people you can still parody on film and get away with it. Almost every ethnic, religious and ability group has its own affinity organization, so it is hard to take cheap shots at anyone. The exception to this ban on making fun of others seems to exclude white rural folk and the grossly overweight, and Held Up does its level best to take advantage of this loophole while it can.

OK, to be fair, there's more to Held Up than Tired-Stereotypes-For-Fun-and-Profit. For example, the premise is quite funny. Mike and Rae (Jamie Foxx and Nia Long) are driving through rural Arizona in his newly acquired vintage Studebaker. At a Sip-and-Zip convenience store they get into a doozy of a fight over the cost of the car, and Rae takes off for the Las Vegas airport in the back of a pickup filled with handsome cowboys. Mike tries to follow in fast pursuit but is stymied by a 14-year-old car thief, a holdup in the convenience store by a handsome, well-meaning migrant worker (Eduardo Yanez), and a hostage situation for which the whole town turns out.

I'm a little hard pressed to say why this movie fell so flat. Jamie Foxx is great to watch -- he's handsome and a good actor and has terrific comic timing -- and Nia Long is a good foil to his silliness. Of course, since they spend three-quarters of the movie apart, that might be a big part of the problem. The continuous scene shifts, from the Sip-and-Zip -- complete with SWAT team, guns and a pet skunk -- to the Las Vegas airport bar, do little for romantic tension.

Writer Jeff Easton also relies too heavily on the silly setups without enough payoff -- the town is broke and can't afford real tear gas, the utilities guy is such a dimwit he can't cut the right cable, etc.

That said, Held Up isn't a miserable failure, just a disappointment. There are some very funny moments, a few unexpected scenes and a nice little heartwarmer at the end. Ultimately, it tries to be nice to everybody (if still clinging to a few rural-and-inbred stereotypes), and if it doesn't succeed brilliantly, neither does it completely crash and burn.

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