If viewers grew up watching “Rush Hour” reruns on television, watching Jon Foo (“Universal Soldier: Regeneration”) and Justin Hires (“Stomp the Yard”) reprise the memorable roles of Lee and Carter originally played by Jackie Chan (“Shanghai Knights”) and Chris Tucker (“The Fifth Element”), respectively, would be a huge letdown.
Airing on CBS at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, “Rush Hour” is a new series armed with the intent of translating the successful franchise into a hit show. It was easy for viewers to continuously draw parallels between the new show and old movies.
Unfortunately, these parallels did not favor the story’s reprisal. Foo and Hires are good actors in their own right, and had “Rush Hour” not pulled so directly from the movies, it may have elicited a better reaction. Trying to imitate the original dynamic duo of Chan and Tucker is a feat in its own right.
In the pilot episode, Chinese artifacts which included Terracotta Soldiers on loan to the United States are flown to Los Angeles with a Hong Kong police escort, one of whom is Lee’s sister. Upon landing, the officers are ambushed by a Chinese gang, and the artifacts are subsequently stolen.
The case is personal to Lee, as the escort was killed by the gang. Lee requests to come to Los Angeles to find out what has happened to his sister. Throughout the episode, Lee’s comedy seems restricted to his lines with Carter, whereas Carter’s funny bone is seen throughout not only his conversation, but in his actions as well – something that the Chan-Tucker partnership embodied.
In the original “Rush Hour,” Jackie Chan set off an iconic billiards fight scene by insulting a bartender, resulting in a hilarious and solid action sequence involving martial arts and broken cue sticks, not to mention Jackie Chan’s amusing facial expressions while nursing his injuries in between kicking butt. The copy of this scene in the pilot episode was chock-full of action and impeccable fight choreography but simply did not compare to the original.
Foo’s style of action with martial arts moves would have been at home in a more serious drama rather than the action comedy feel that this show’s scenes clearly demand. Many viewers might spend this scene, like much of the episode, hoping that Foo and Hires would be magically replaced with Chan and Tucker and basically wishing that “Rush Hour” the movie was on the screen instead of the new and “improved” television series.
A noteworthy difference and perhaps an improvement was the inclusion of a female captain – making it more relevant to 2016, as there are more women in leadership positions now. That being said, rebooting the show and setting it in 2016 means that some of the jokes feel stale and rooted in stereotypes more common in the pop culture of 1995, instead of the current decade. A gender swap and ever so slight plot upheaval simply are not enough to create a viably interesting remake.
The downfall of the pilot was its attempt to mimic scenes from the movie. This is quite a shame, since some of the new scenes are actually quite funny. The comedic jackpots found in the original jokes allow viewers to be optimistic about the next few episodes, despite the failing of the pilot.
Foo and Hires are definitely not Jackie Chan or Chris Tucker, but given their own space to be funny, there is potential for a better success. Viewers will just have to wait and see if “Rush Hour” decides to move away from the scenes in the movie franchise.
As there are only three movies from which to pull material, it can be expected that the show’s subsequent episodes will be full of new content that could propel the show to become a hit, or at least to be funnier than the less than mediocre pilot.