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Thursday, August 9, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Chris, why'd we make "Rush Hour 3"?

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Rush Hour 3," starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Youki Kudoh, Zhang Jingchu, Max von Sydow, Yvan Attal. Directed by Brett Ratner, from a screenplay by Jeff Nathanson.

91 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language.

Some movie franchises, like the "Harry Potter" series, grow and change before our eyes; some, like Brett Ratner's "Rush Hour" movies, stay resolutely the same. You know that Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker will sing "War, What Is It Good For" at some point; that Tucker will squawk out his lines in that patented falsetto; that Chan will climb walls and jump off buildings and look vaguely embarrassed; that the good guys will prevail; and that many scenes will take place in heavy traffic.

And, indeed, all of this comes to pass in "Rush Hour 3," the latest installment in Ratner's popular yet increasingly out-of-gas action/comedy franchise. Chinese Chief Inspector Lee (Chan) and LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker) again team up — reluctantly, on Lee's part — to battle a Chinese organized crime syndicate, which has shot a Chinese ambassador in the U.S. and kidnapped his daughter (Zhang Jingchu). Starting in Los Angeles, six years after the events of the previous film, the action moves to Paris, where Lee and Carter make their way through crowded streets, exotic gentlemen's clubs, and of course the Eiffel Tower, where the movie's climactic action sequences take place.

Chan and Tucker were an oddly inspired pairing the first time around — one underacts, one overacts, and it all seems to balance out somehow — and the new movie does contain a few funny moments. Visiting a martial-arts studio in L.A., Tucker gets caught up in a who's-on-first routine that's so ancient you can practically see the dust fly, but it works. (First guy: "I am Yu." Tucker: "You're me?" Another guy: "I am Mi." Repeat, almost endlessly.) In Paris, Chan makes a nightclub entrance perched on a swing, goofily reminiscent of Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge."

French actor Yvan Attal ("My Wife Is an Actress") is a welcome presence as George, a cabbie who initially says he hates Americans but quickly becomes caught up in Lee and Carter's milieu. ("The guns, the shooting — now I understand what it means to be an American!" he says, eyes shining.) An odd cameo by Roman Polanski, as a French police inspector who gives Lee and Carter a less-than-warm welcome, is less effective.

But it's the chemistry between Chan and Tucker that takes center stage, and it's just not fresh enough to sustain the film. They bicker, they banter, they perform some scary stunts (parachuting off the Eiffel Tower with a French flag is, admittedly, kind of cool), they encounter some scary women, and they shoot people, almost as if going through a checklist. For those who still enjoy the formula, "Rush Hour 3" will suit fine; but here's a vote for letting Lee and Carter dance into the sunset, having sung their last chorus.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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